Athletics

AFI puts its money on relay teams

Adille Sumariwalla.

Adille Sumariwalla.  

Sumariwalla backs them to deliver in 2020 Tokyo

The Indian mile relay teams had a disastrous Olympics in Rio and did not even make the cut for London 2012 but Adille Sumariwalla still believes that a relay quartet will win an Olympic medal in Tokyo next year.

And that is why the 4x400m relay teams — which, however, did well at last year’s Jakarta Asiad with women’s gold and men’s and mixed silver — get the best treatment from the Athletics Federation of India with long camps in countries like Turkey, Poland and the Czech Republic.

“Yes, the relay teams’ performance was disastrous in Rio, I agree with you.

“But they are being given the biggest support because we feel that in the next Olympics, they will win a medal,” said AFI president Sumariwalla in a chat with The Hindu.

“That is our analysis. Now, if you want to challenge that, we can challenge it.”

Disastrous past

Incidentally, the Indian women finished seventh in their heats and 13th overall (3:29.53s) and failed to qualify for the final in Rio 2016 while the men were disqualified.

At the 2017 Worlds in London, the women were disqualified while the men were fifth in their heats (season-best 3:02.80s) and 10th overall and did not enter the final.

The qualification gates for the Tokyo Olympics open on May 1 in a majority of events and Sumariwalla has now virtually closed in on events where Indians could do well.

“We are looking at a few events…the 400m, the two 4x400m relays, the 400m hurdles, we are looking at men’s javelin throw very strongly, women’s discus throw, men’s shot put and the men’s 20km walk though we had done badly there in the past. And of course, the men’s long jump,” said the AFI chief.

New prospects

While World No. 4 javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion, looks the best bet to bring independent India’s first-ever Olympic medal in athletics in Tokyo, Tamil Nadu’s 400m hurdler Dharun Ayyasamy (World No. 24), who has been on a national record-breaking spree, Jakarta Asiad gold medallist shot putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (World No. 27) and the young Kerala long jumper M. Sreeshankar, who produced an amazing 8.20m jump late last year, are the among the new ones to attract the AFI’s attention.

The picture will be clearer after the Asian Championships in Doha from April 21 to 24.

“Ideally, we don’t want that many numbers at the Olympics. We only want to take people who have a chance of being in the final or getting a medal,” explained Sumariwalla.

“We want those who are dead serious, otherwise sometimes when people finish their events early, in the first round, they start becoming a distraction to others,” he said.

“I would be happy if only 10 qualify and four come back with a medal.

“It’s better than 30 qualifying and coming back with no medals.”

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:10:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/afi-puts-its-money-on-relay-teams/article26689047.ece

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