Ostrava, September 8: India's ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra will spearhead the Team Asia Pacific challenge at the two-day International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Continental Cup.
Neeraj will be up against a quality field which includes world's top two throwers -- IAAF Diamond League finals winner Andreas Hoffman and the Olympic champion Thomas Rohler.
The 20-year-old is in good form in recent times, having won the Asian Games gold medal in Jakarta last month. He had also finished fourth at IAAF Diamond League finals in Zurich and will be hoping to continue that at Ostrava's Mestsky Stadium.
“When I was younger I used to see the jet planes travelling high in the sky over my village. Now I cannot believe I am travelling all over the world in those jet planes as a javelin thrower.” @Neeraj_chopra1 #TeamAsiaPacific #IAAFOstrava2018 pic.twitter.com/8ywY0f0VgT— IAAF (@iaaforg) September 7, 2018
Other Indians in the fray include Arpinder Singh (triple jump), Jinson Johnson (800M), Muhammed Anas (400M), Sudha Singh (3,000M steeplechase) and P U Chitra (1,500M).
Hima Das, the Asian 400M silver medallist, has been pulled out of the event by the Athletics Federation of India to give the junior world champion some rest.
The Continental Cup, which began as the World Cup in 1977, is the IAAF's oldest in-stadium competition, celebrating its 13th edition, the third as the Continental Cup.
Taking to heart the IAAF's emphasis on introducing innovative approaches to its competitions, the Ostrava 2018 Local Organising Committee has incorporated several changes to the programme that promise to bring added excitement and drama to the sold-out two-day event.
Among them are qualification and elimination phases in the horizontal jumps, throws and some middle distance races.
"I was delighted that the Czech federation were really prepared to pick up the baton when I said I wanted innovation, when we wanted challenging change," said IAAF President Sebastian Coe while addressing a press conference with the Continental Cup Team Captains and Team Representatives.
"There will be concepts and formats that you will see over the next couple of days that I think we can understand and learn from, and absorb and adapt.
"We want to be innovative, we want to be imaginative," Coe continued. "Not everything we're going to try is going to work out the first time around. The athletes seated next to me know that to succeed, you sometimes need to road-test and do things differently. And that's really what we're about."
Libor Varhanik, President of the Czech Athletics Federation and the Ostrava 2018 Local Organising Committee, also shared his excitement.
"We are delighted that we will have a packed stadium," he said.
"The interest was huge and we've sold out many days ago. That's a very good sign for athletics in this country. And for athletics in general."
(With IAAF inputs)