Para athletics: Gurjar, Chaudhary lead Indian contingent

Reigning world champions Sundar Singh Gurjar and Sandeep Chaudhary will lead the Indian challenge at the 12th Fazza International Championships — Dubai 2021 World Para Athletics Grand Prix starting on Wednesday.

Both Gurjar (F46) and Chaudhary (F44), both Para Javelin throwers, will return to their happy hunting ground, the Dubai Club for People of Determination grounds, as the 39-member Indian side look to secure Tokyo 2020 qualifying slots. India already has secured 12 quotas in Para Athletics.

Besides, high jumpers Sharad Kumar (T42) and Nishad Kumar (T47), javelin thrower Ajeet Singh (F46) and young discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya (F56), all of them World Championships bronze medallist, will also be action.

Among women, promising Kashish Lakra (Discus and Club Throw F51), Shweta Sharma (Javelin F55) and Simran (100m, 400m T13) among others will look to make a mark.

The Championships, hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, will serve one of the seven qualifying events for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with over 600 Para-athletes from 63 countries to compete in the four-day championship.

“I am very happy to return to international competition after a long time. I have good memories from the World Championships in 2019 and I hope to do even better this time; I will try to maintain my No. 1 World Ranking in my event,” said Gurjar.

“This event is also important in regard to our preparations for Tokyo 2020 as we have been just training for more than one year now.”

Chaudhary made his international debut at the Dubai Club grounds in the 2015 edition of Fazza Para Athletics. Later, he went on to become the world champion at the same ground in 2019.

“Yes, I have special memories in this ground. I hope to do well this time as well. Though my target will be producing my personal best at Tokyo 2020. This is an important event for all the players as this will help us get back into shape after the Pandemic has put a halt to trainings, events for more than a year. I am happy to finally compete now,” he said.

National Para Athletics coach Satyanarayana said the Championships is important to get the players’ body and mind into ‘competition mode’.

“It’s been very long that para athletes have competed internationally. After the Dubai 2019 Worlds, there has been no competition. Also at the worlds, only the elite players took part. So, this Championships will play an important role for them getting back into the competitive frame of mind besides securing Tokyo 2020 qualifying slots,” Satyanarayana.

“We are looking to secure at least six additional qualifying slots here. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if the top athletes don’t get their personal best here, as they would want to reach their peak forms four to five months before Tokyo 2020.”

The coach was also happy to see the number of teams confirmed for the Fazza Championships despite the Pandemic. “Dubai seems to be all set for the event now with all precautionary measures.”

The February 10-13 meet is the first Para sport event being held after almost a year due to Covid pandemic.