KOCHI: Sports, at times, is very unkind. Previous winners are quickly forgotten. A good three seasons back, Arokia Rajiv hogged all the limelight.
The Tamil Nadu quartermiler had the attributes to fill the void left by the likes of Paramjit Singh and KM Binu. Pace, built and technique, Arokia was invincible on Indian tracks until a rookie from the countryside came along.
Muhammed Anas, 22 and from a village near Thiruvananthapuram, dropped a hint of things to come before near-empty stands at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in the first edition of the Indian Grand Prix last April. He shocked the fraternity by beating Arokia, Asian Games bronze medallist and pre-race favourite.
In the Federation Cup at the same venue a week later, Arokia struck back, beating Anas in a close race. But that had more to do with Arokia’s experience. Anas defeated him in a couple of races after that and even erased the national record held by him.
On Monday, Anas ran an outstanding race at the final leg of the Indian Grand Prix at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, clocking 45.32s to better his national record of 45.40 and earn a ticket to the World Championship in London.
Contrary to expectations, it was a one-sided affair as Anas maintained speed throughout and Arokia failed to keep pace. The holder of the previous national record of 45.47 was a shadow of his good old days and finished a second slower than the winner.
Does Anas feel he has reached where Arokia was? Has he become invincible on Indian tracks? “There’s pressure to perform. Maybe it’s same as with every athlete. Beyond that, I don’t know if I have anything to do or prove. I just need to run because that’s what I like. I don’t care what others are doing,” Anas said.
Off the track, Anas and Arokia are friends, but when competing, the fight is for the throne.
Anas’ coach PB Jaikumar felt his ward can run below 45 this season. “This season he was given training in hurdles because he is quick and has fast grasping powers. If allowed to compete in 400m hurdles also, he can win an Asian Games medal now. We had simulated high-altitude training and sand training that improved his explosive power,” he said.
Jisna to the fore
Jisna Mathew of PT Usha’s academy pipped MR Poovamma to win gold in 400m. She clocked 52.65s, her personal best, to dethrone Poovamma, who tasted her first domestic failure in three seasons. She clocked 52.73s.