Indian athletes look to impress in Doha as Tokyo 2020 draws closer

The women's relay team have won gold at every Asian Games since 2002. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Last year's Asian Games in Jakarta was India's second-highest ever haul in track and field, as the athletes picked up seven golds, 10 silvers, and two bronze medals. However, it has already been seven months since, and new challenges now beckon.

First up is the Asian Athletics Championships in April, followed by the World Championships in September, both in Doha. These competitions will offer a window into how India's athletes are shaping up for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The Olympic qualification period for race walking and marathon events began on January 1 this year, and KT Irfan became the first Indian athlete to achieve Tokyo entry standards with a timing of 1:20:57, finishing fourth in the Asian Racewalking Championships in Nomi, Japan.

All other athletics events will have their qualifying window falling between May 1, 2019 and June 29, 2020.

Five Indian athletes have qualified for the World Championships so far. Between now and the biennial competition which gets underway on September 27, there are at least three major events - the Asian Athletics Championships (April 21-24), the Inter-state Nationals (July 14-17), and the Indian GP (September 1) where the remaining athletes can achieve entry standards.

In the run-up to Olympics, the world athletics body has put a few major changes in place.

The IAAF Council which met in Doha, the host city for the World Championships in September, agreed on tweaking the competition format and rules such as approving a new 2020 Olympic qualification system, extending the window by two months (May 1 instead of July 1) and including more competitions like the Diamond League to offer athletes more opportunities at achieving entry standards.

In February this year, a new world rankings system was launched under which athletes will be awarded points based on a combination of results and position depending on the level of competition. The ranking is then determined based on their average score over a certain number of competitions in a defined period of time.

Also, a dual qualification system for the 2020 Olympics has been put in place which will combine both the entry standards and rankings. It effectively implies that an athlete can qualify for Tokyo either by achieving entry standard within qualification period or by virtue of their ranking at the end of the qualification period. The idea is to have 50% of the athletes in each event qualifying through either system.