4x400m teams to be finalised later as AFI chief slams 75-day Asiad deadline

The entry for the Games closes next month and the AFI has to send the final list by then. “After entry closes it will be extremely difficult to change names,”
M Sreeshankar was one of the athletes who did well in Bhubaneswar meet
M Sreeshankar was one of the athletes who did well in Bhubaneswar meet

CHENNAI: The conditions were brutal with temperatures hovering around 44 °C, with humidity as high as 70-80 per cent. It felt like 52 °C during the day and did sound like mid-summer madness. Most of the events were either scheduled in the morning or evening when temperatures were tolerable. Yet, it did not deter athletes from all over the country from reaching Bhubaneswar to take a final shot at Asian Games qualification during the Inter-state senior national athletics championships between June 15 and 19. 

The entry for the Games closes next month and the AFI has to send the final list by then. “After entry closes it will be extremely difficult to change names,” Athletics Federation of India chief Adille Sumariwalla told this daily. He is not happy that the entry closes 75 days before the Games in September-October. “To finalise the names 75 days in advance is ridiculous,” he said. “Even in Worlds and Olympics, it’s usually 15 days. The Olympic Council of Asia should have thought about this. The Games is for the athletes and not the organisers. If we hold another event in the next few days, the results will differ.”

The AFI chief pointed out events where athletes have very close victories. “Look at long jump, javelin or 1500m women… there is so much competition and results might change,” he said. Athletics is one sport in which India has been dominating in Asia. In 2018, athletics had 20 medals in all. The break-up was sumptuous too – eight gold, nine silver and three bronze. The medals this time might increase a trifle. This augurs well for the sports ministry and the Sports Authority of India (the facilitator) too. Apparently, during internal meetings with officials and Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the projection is around 19 gold and the best-ever medal haul.  

However, since it will be held in China this time might be a little difficult. “We will definitely do better than last time but since it’s being held in China, the challenges will be more than the Jakarta edition.” The AFI is keeping a close watch on the 400m women’s runners as well. The quartet that ran in 2018 — MR Poovamma, Saritaben Gaikwad, Hima Das and VK Vismaya — is no longer in the scheme of things for different reasons. Hima, the 400m silver medallist in 2018, has not been running 400m due to a back injury. Poovamma failed a dope test and has been banned while Saritaben is not competing. Vismaya is out of form. 

Four runners have attained the AG qualification mark. Anjali Devi is back with a 51.48s and young Himanshi Malik too ran a sub-52s. R Vithya Ramraj and Aishwarya Mishra were the other two who managed to run below the qualifying mark of 52.96. The AFI is yet to decide on the final combination. “It’s too early for the final four combinations but we should be winning gold again,” he said.

Asked about Anjali Devi, who is making a comeback after three years, he said she has been part of the national camp. As far as the 400m men’s goes, three runners have attained the qualification mark — Muhammed Anas (45.76s), Muhammed Ajmal V (45.90s) and Amoj Jacob (45.91s). It needs to be seen who will be the other members in the 4x400m team. Out of the four — Dharun Ayyasamy, Kunhu Mohammed, Rajiv Arokia and Anas — that won a silver in 2018, only Anas competed in Bhubaneswar.

Seasoned athlete Tajinderpal Singh Toor, who had to change his coach after Mohinder Singh Dhillon shifted to Australia, threw a national record of 21.77m. M Sreeshankar, who is back from a training stint in the US and Europe, cleared 8.41m during the qualification alongside Jeswin Aldrin (8.42m). Up-and-coming athlete, Jyothi Yarraji, from Andhra Pradesh, showed why she is touted as India’s future in the sprint. She won both 100m straight and her pet 100m hurdles with another sub-13 sec with a timing of 12.92.  

There are quite a few events where more than two athletes have qualified. “We will go by our selection policy that’s on our website,” Sumariwalla said. The AFI will be sending two athletes who they think India has a chance of winning more than one medal. Sumariwalla said this is heartening because earlier there used to be one or two athletes qualifying but this time there are events in which more than two have attained qualification standards. “It’s simple, the best will go,” he said. He said there will be a fitness trial before the Games.

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