Athletics is a collection of sporting events that involve competitive running, jumping, throwing, and walking. The most common types of athletics competitions are track and field, road running, cross country running, and race walking.
Athletics competitions can be broadly divided into three types: international championships, national championships, and annual meetings and races. Athletics at international championships, or Games, represent the pinnacle of competition within the sport, and they are contested between athletes representing their country or region. The organisation of these competitions is usually overseen by either a world, continental, or regional athletics governing body. Athletes gain entry into these competitions by earning selection from their national athletics governing body, which is generally done by assessing athletes via their past achievements or performances at a national selection event.
The International championships held are:
- Olympic Games: www.olympic.org/athletics
- Paralympic Games: www.paralympic.org/athletics
- World Championships: iaaf world championships
- Commonwealth Games: www.thecgf.com/about
- Universiade: www.fisu.net/sports/athletics
The Athletics Federation of India is the apex body for running and managing athletics in India and affiliated to the IAAF, AAA and Indian Olympic Association. The AFI has as many as 32 affiliated state units and institutional units. The AFI came into existence in 1946 and the federation organises the National Championships, trains the Indian Athletics National Campers, selects the Indian Athletics Teams for various international competitions, including the Olympics, Asian Games, CWG, IAAF World Championships, Asian Championships and other international meets, conducts the National Championships for various age categories.
Besides, the AFI conducts international and national championships and various meets to promote the sport and popularise it amongst the masses and make athletics commercially attractive for the further growth of the athlete and the sport. The federation also supervises and assists its state units in their activities, plans and sets up special coaching camps, coaches training and takes initiatives for development programme and grass root promotion of athletics in India.
Conducting International Championships & Meets: The AFI organises various international events in India, including the IAAF Permit Meets, World Half-Marathon Championships, Asian Championships, Asian Junior Championships, Asian Grand Prix, Asian All-Star competitions, South Asian Championships besides being involved in conducting multi-sport events like Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, South Asian Games, etc.
National Championships & Grand Prix Series: In a huge country like India, providing adequate opportunities to aspiring and budding athletes at the national and regional level is crucial. Apart from the National Championships for seniors and juniors, the AFI arguably conducts the maximum number of meets in Indian sports, keeping in mind the diverse disciplines, from track to field and road races to walking.
Taping and grooming the budding athletes and young talent across India in schools, districts, is a top priority for the AFI. The Federation runs two unique and ambitious programmes:
- NID-JAM: The National Inter-District Juniors Athletics Meet is an annual championship. An unique sports programme which identifies and selects champions from more than 260 districts in India till last count, and provides them a National platform to perform, nurture and get selected for the Indian National camp and further selection for international championship. Around 3,500 budding athletes are nurtured under the NID Championship. A total of 13 athletes and one coach and manager represent each district after a qualification tournament is held in their respective districts. So far 12 editions of the NID-JAM have been conducted with a maximum participation of 3,500 athletes from 260 districts.
- IAAF-AFI Kids Athletics: Launched in 2013, this is a grass root programme to encourage as many schools and their students to take up physical activity and athletics. An initiative of the IAAF, the AFI launched the programme in India in 2013 and till now 19 states in the country have adopted the Kids Athletics programme.
Indian athletics has a rich heritage and an enviable track record in more than 75 years of its existence. The sport has contributed the bulk of the medal haul for the Indian contingent at the Asian Games since 1951. Out of a total of 534 medals won by India, athletics leads the contribution with 219 medals, including 70 gold medals, 73 silver and 76 bronze respectively.
Since the 1900 Olympics Games held in Paris where an Indian, Norman Pritchard notched up two silver in the 200m race and 200m hurdles events, Indian athletics has been constantly trying to raise the bar and produced hundreds of international medallists and path-breaking performances.
In the post-Independence era, India has produced a slew of international icons in track and field events, dominating the continent, and hitting the limelight in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. The legendary Henry Rebello, ‘Flying Sikh’ Milka Singh, the ‘Jim Thorpe of India’ Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, Sriram Singh, PT Usha, IAAF World Athletics gold medallist Anju Bobby George, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Krishna Poonia, twice Asian Games gold medallists Ashwini Akunji, are some of the illustrious names.