India’s 4x400m relay teams credit Nassau training for punching ticket to Paris

The move by AFI and SAI to send the athletes on a month-long camp helped them acclimatise and bounce back to qualify for the 2024 Olympics

Updated - May 13, 2024 03:13 am IST

Published - May 13, 2024 12:26 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

The Indian men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams overcame failures to seal Paris Olympic quota places in the Bahamas and heave a sigh of relief. They think the initiative to send them for a month-long training camp in Nassau played a critical part in the preparation for the important assignment.

The men’s quartet of Muhammed Anas, Muhammed Ajmal, Arokia Rajiv and Amoj Jacob, which could not register a time in its first attempt as Rajesh Ramesh pulled out due to a hamstring injury, bounced back to clock 3:03.23 and punched a ticket to Paris.

Jacob said the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI’s) plan and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) supporting the camp was an essential ingredient in the success.

Jacob felt that the Athletics Federation of India and Sports Authority of India supporting the camp was an essential ingredient in the success
Chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair pointed out that the camp helped the sprinters overcome jet lag and adapt to an entirely different time zone
Qualification of both the men’s and women’s squads has raised the hopes of the Indian mixed team also making it to Paris through the Asian Relays on May 20 and 21

“It was really helpful, especially the jet lag. Right now I am sleepy, I want to sleep. I am going to sleep at 11 p.m. and am waking up at 1 in the night. I am not able to sleep, I am just getting two hours of sleep. My body is getting used to sleeping around like 12 or 1 in the afternoon, it is a bit hard. But if I have to compete in the Diamond League, then I have to go to Eugene and compete and then come back and compete in China. I have to get used to it.

“It took me around two weeks to get used to their timing. And after we were able to cope up with the work out. Unfortunately, Rajesh, our second leg runner, pulled his hamstring during the heats. Otherwise we would have clocked below three minutes in the heats and qualified. In the finals we were a bit stressed about what would happen, but we qualified. Our motto was to qualify and we did it. We are really thankful that we went one month before,” said Jacob.

Living in an apartment near the venue and getting served Indian food, like they are served at the SAI training centre in Thiruvananthapuram also helped the athletes.

Adapting, delivering

Chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair pointed out that the camp helped the sprinters overcome jet lag and adapt to an entirely different time zone, which is nine-and-half hours behind India time.

“We are well placed in Asia. Our mixed relay team should qualify. Also, we don’t have to bother about acclimatisation”Radhakrishnan NairChief coach

“It takes 10 to 12 days to adapt to the time zone and jet lag. We came back on May 9. Still we have the problem of jet lag. The coaching camp helped in adapting and getting qualified for the Olympics. We expected a medal in the 4x400m men’s relay. Unfortunately, our second best runner got injured during the heats and we could not finish,” said Nair.

Even though both Indian men and women teams qualified for Paris, the men’s story stands out for its superb fightback.

Ajmal threw light as to how the team changed its plans after Rajesh’s injury. “We were a little upset because we wanted to qualify in the first round itself and we could have done a below three-minute performance. And we could have fought for a medal. But we shrugged off the setback as there can be ups and downs in life. So we thought we have to qualify no matter what. Good that we could achieve what we aimed at,” said Ajmal.

“The new coach (Jason Dawson) is good. He changed our position and I ran the second leg and Arokia bhaiya ran the third leg. We practised the baton exchange, but you don’t need to do it too many times in 400m.”

Boosting confidence

Ajmal pointed out that the men’s team’s fine showing in the Budapest World championships, where India clocked 2:59.05 in the heats and 2:59.92 in the final, has boosted the confidence of the runners.

“We did well in Budapest and that has given us a lot of confidence that we can do well.”

Jacob did not mind the challenge the team faced in the Bahamas. “There should be challenges in life. If everything goes smoothly, then life becomes boring. There should be some ups and downs. After Budapest, we knew we could run 2:58. So if we clock between 2:59 and 2:57 in the Olympics, then we can have a medal. The coach had said you try to qualify in the heats so that I can change the team and give others a chance as I don’t want you to push everywhere so that we can move forward. But there was a little bit of pressure because of our failure in the heats.

“It was a bit dicey running with the USA as they run below three every time. They may have 10-15 others who are at this level. We don’t have that kind of luxury as we get people with 46 timing (soon after us). At the moment, we have six 45 runners and a few who can do 46.

“Since the workout load is more, you feel the impact. I hope the team will peak by the Olympics and we will not have any issues. We have got the boys, but we have to be careful about injuries. There is enough time. I take a month to get back my fitness, but everybody is different. Everybody is fit, but we have to be careful so that no one gets injured. If something major happens, it takes away six to eight months which is very risky.”

Ajmal, Amoj, Subha and Jyothika.

Ajmal, Amoj, Subha and Jyothika.

The women’s side, including Rupal Chaudhary, Jyothika Sri Dandi, M.R. Poovamma and Subha Venkatesan, after its initial failure, grabbed the second opportunity to book a ticket with a time of 3:29.35 and qualify for Paris 2024. Qualification of both the men and women has raised the hopes of the Indian mixed team qualifying for the Olympics through the Asian Relays on May 20 and 21.

“The Asian Relays are there and we can get the mixed relay quota there in Bangkok. Hopefully we will do well there,” said a confident Ajmal.

Nair agreed. “We are well placed in Asia. Our mixed relay team should qualify. Also, we don’t have to bother about acclimatisation and we can leave for Bangkok just two days prior,” said Nair.

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