LUCKNOW: Just before the women’s 400m final at the PAC Athletics Stadium, the rain gods decided to show up. While everyone inside the stadium, particularly the athletes, were relieved by that on a humid and sweltering day, the mild showers actually made things worse. Participants in in the 59th Inter-State Athletics Championships who could not perform to expectations blamed the weather.
Anjali Devi was among those who gave no excuses. In a line-up that had Asian Games gold medallist Saritaben Gayakwad and Kerala’s Jisna Mathew, the Haryana girl raced to the 400m gold clocking 51.53s. She had already qualified for the World Championship in Doha when she ran 51.79s at the Open Nationals in Bhubaneswar last year. On Thursday, she once again ran under the qualification standard of 51.80s and also posted a personal best.
Injuries have been troubling Anjali for a while. This performance suggested she is back to her best. With stiff competition from Saritaben and Jisna, she took a healthy lead in the home stretch to clinch gold. While she was with the squad training in Turkey, she had to come back because of an ankle fracture. Even at the Federation Cup in March, she was unable to clock a good timing. She was out of the national camp for almost two months.
But her decision to come home for treatment paid dividends and she will be joining the camp in Patiala soon. “During the Federation Cup, I was injured. I put on some weight too. I was basically unfit. I did not feel good at all. Then I did my treatment for my ankle. I felt better and wanted to participate in Lucknow. I thought it was a nice opportunity to get a good timing before the Worlds and it proved to be a good decision,” Anjali said.“I was in the camp earlier. Then I decided to come home because my personal doctor was there. I had a slight fracture on my ankle. I was out for two months. But after treatment, I trained with my personal coach Rohtash Siwach. I was in touch with coaches in the camp as well. They supported me. I will go back to the camp in Patiala.”
Despite the medal and achieving the qualifying standard, Anjali’s coach said she could have done better. According to Siwach, the injury took a toll on her progress. “We were targeting 50.00s here. But for the injury, she could have done it. Despite all the difficulties she has faced, Anjali is strong mentally. If she stays injury free, she can go places.”
Her performance also raises the question whether she should be included in the relay team. Her timing is better than what the quarter-milers have managed this season, including Hima Das and VK Vismaya. But the Athletics Federation of India is clear about selecting only campers for the relay team. It remains to be seen whether the AFI makes an exception.