ROME, Italy: Lowe: The women’s 400m hurdles looks like it’s going to be another interesting event this season. Some good youngsters, including Jamaican Janieve Russell, are looking to upset the applecart with the experienced Zuzana Hejnova and Kaliese Spencer having to show that they are up for the challenge. There’s no Hejnova in Rome, but the field is stacked with quality all around. KC Graham: Stacked indeed as the top pretenders, or I should say contenders, for the Olympic title are in this line-up, and what a race it will be! Lowe: This one is hard to call, but it will go a long way in showing who is really ready to step up and push for that title. Georganne Moline is the fastest this year ahead of Russell, who has two of the four fastest times. She’s also coming off a morale-boosting win in Rabat against some of these girls, but again, we can’t rule out women like Wenda Theron Nel, Cassandra Tate and Eilidh Doyle. Spencer has some work to do, but her experience can be crucial here. KC Graham: All Jamaicans will be eyeing the clash between Russell and Spencer, as coach Stephen Francis has something to prove here. Despite her wealth of experience, I don’t see Spencer finishing ahead of Russell in the near future as Russell has now gone on to bigger things based on her excellent form so far. I see her as a contender for a major medal at the Olympics and this is the right time to dismiss a field like this. Lowe: You’re being a bit too dismissive yourself of a woman who has gone 52 seconds in her career. Sure that was under another coach, but the quality and ability is there. In any event, it’s a very interesting sub-plot and while I think Russell is ahead right now and will most likely finish ahead on Thursday, a lot can change between now and the Olympics. KC Graham: You are dealing with history, and it is the present that I am now talking about. Yes, it is early days, but Spencer has not shown me in her past two races that she will be a main contender this time around. Her technique needs major fixing and she will have problems beating quality hurdlers this time around. Russell was on target to go sub 54 seconds in Rabat, but had a problem over the last barrier where she was in two minds about her lead leg and unfortunately the wrong leg came up, which caused her not to drop a big time. Lowe: Spencer’s technique was never textbook to begin with, but we already agree that some work is needed. She has time, and while I’m still waiting to see that spark, I do believe she’ll look much better the closer we get to her trials/Rio appointments. However, for Rome, if Russell had a normal training week – not too heavy on the legs, I think she wins again here. KC Graham: I expect a big performance from Russell here. Despite Moline being the world leader she normally crumbles under pressure, while Child will need another big effort if she hopes to repeat her Doha’s success. With a better start this time around a sub 54 seconds is on the cards for Russell.
Star wrestler Bajrang Punia on Sunday dedicated his gold medal victory at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov to Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who returned to India from Pakistan on Friday.Bajrang defeated American Jordan Oliver in the 65kg catergory final on Saturday at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov wrestling in Ruse, Bulgaria.”I want to dedicate my gold to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. He has inspired me. I want to meet him one day and also shake hands with him,” Bajrang Punia tweeted after his victory.65kg Gold goes to – BAJRANG (IND) pic.twitter.com/BlPLvysNJYUnited World Wrestling (@wrestling) 2 March 2019Bajrang, who bagged the top prize at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games last year, has won four gold medals and one silver in the last five tournaments.On Wednesday, Wing Commander Abhinandan, while flying the MiG 21 Bison, was chasing Pakistani F-16 fighters, which had transgressed into the Indian airspace, and in the process, his plane crossed over to Pakistani side and was shot down. He ejected safely but was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army upon landing. Before his plane was shot, he had hit a Pakistani F-16.Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that Abhinandan would be handed over to India as a “peace gesture” and the moment finally came on a rainy night on Friday after hours of waiting.On March 1, wearing blue blazer and grey khaki trouser, he crossed over into India from Attari-Wagah border at 9:20 pm IST. He was handed over by the Pakistan Rangers to the Border Security Force (BSF) following paperwork.advertisementWing Commander Abhinandan was accompanied by an officer of the Pakistan Foreign Office and Indian Defence Attache Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien.Tensions escalated between the two neighbouring nations following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 in which India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) lost 40 soldiers.Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the ghastly attack in which a suicide bomber blew up a CRPF bus in Pulwama.India responded to it by launching air strikes on a Jaish terror base in Balakot, early Tuesday morning. Pakistan retaliated with their own air strike inside the Indian territory the very next day after which Wing Commander Abhinandan crossed the border.Also Read | BCCI pays tribute to Abhinandan Varthaman: You rule the skies and you rule our heartsAlso Read | Virat Kohli salutes real hero Wing Commander Abhinandan: I bow down to youAlso Watch: