South Asian Cross Country Championship and the 56th National Cross country Championship will be the first-ever international athletic event in Nagaland, which is set to commence on March 26.
New Delhi: "All the best, Kohima," says Olympic Golden boy Neeraj Chopra. The state of Nagaland is known for insurgency, political turmoil and, of course, festivals. But now, all eyes are on the forthcoming mega international sporting extravaganza in the Naga hills.
The stage is set for the South Asian Cross Country Championship and the 56th National Cross country Championship to be hosted at state capital Kohima on March 26.
More than 600 athletes will participate in the event from all the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) affiliated states and union territories in India and South Asian countries.
Nagaland Athletic Association (NAA) Abu Metha said the tournament was initially scheduled to be held on January 15, but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) postponed it due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The new date for the event is March 26, and the tournament will be the first-ever international athletic event in Nagaland, Metha said.
Several sporting icons in the country, including the likes of Anju Bobby George, are expected to arrive in Kohima for the event.
"Looking forward to welcome the legendary and iconic champion @anjubobbygeorg1 to Nagaland -the Land Of Festivals and inspire future Champions," Metha tweeted.
"I am eagerly waiting to visit the beautiful state of Nagaland," says Ms George in a video message.
Anju Bobby George made history when she won the bronze medal in the long jump at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris.
Illustrious sports star Neeraj Chopra in his message, says, "All of you come and be part of the SAAF Cross Country Championship… All the best Kohima."
Fielding questions, Metha told 'Organiser', "It is true all our Naga young volunteers, men and women are excited about the forthcoming event. It is certainly a matter of every Naga that we will host it. The young students are enthusiastically preparing to contribute towards our State and National duty."
Throwing more light on the uniqueness of hosting the event in Kohima. Metha says, "It could be a small step but hopefully a significant and rare and symbolic one in order to send out the right message. We have decided to award equal prize money to both women and men in all categories across all our events."
"Are you surprised but why? Women empowerment is human empowerment," says a grinning Metha.
Olympian Hima Das, nicknamed 'Dhing Express', from the northeastern state of Assam, says, "Nagaland is set to host the much-awaited South Asian Athletic Federation (SAAF) cross country athletics championships, scheduled for March 26. So people of Kohima come in large numbers to support the players and experience high-quality track and field events."
Sprinter Hima had become the first Indian woman — indeed the first-ever Indian athlete — to win a gold medal in any format of a global track event at the IAAF World U20 Championships when she clocked a speed of 51.46 seconds.