India’s fastest man eyes a slice of history

Three years ago, when he landed up at the Racers Track Club in Kingston, Jamaica, Amiya Kumar Mallick felt that he had entered a sprinter’s paradise.

This was the place where the greatest of them all, Usain Bolt, trained, under the guidance of coach Glen Mills. The Odisha sprinter could see Bolt and Yohan Blake working out not far away, and he was thrilled.

“It was a very private place, sort of secluded,” says Mallick, India’s fastest man ever, of his four-and-half-month training stint. “No mobile phones were allowed, no recording too. I trained with Bolt a few times but we didn’t interact much. He is very focused during training.”

Soon, the coaches realised that Mallick was not built in the typical sprinter’s mould.

“As you can see, I am skinny, so they pushed me to do extra weights and gave me exclusive workouts,” he says.

They modified the 24-year-old athlete’s running technique too.

“I open my leg more, which gives me a longer stride length,” Mallick explains. “They said I was ‘over-striding’. They told me that this would break my speed; they told me, ‘maintain a 90-degree angle and bang the ground, and you will move faster.’”

It took time to adapt to the change, but the experience did him a world of good. However, it was pretty expensive.

“It cost about ₹16 lakh. My dad gave me around ₹8.5 lakh, I got a few sponsors from my State and the Odisha Government also offered me nearly ₹4 lakh.”

Was it worth it?

“Definitely, because it brought me the National record,” he says.

Mallick broke the 100m record, bringing it down from 10.30s to 10.26s at the Federation Cup in New Delhi last year.

He had looked good this year, and since the Asian Championships were being held in his hometown, Bhubaneswar, Mallick was brimming with confidence.

But they turned out to be a nightmare.

He was disqualified for a false start in the semifinal in front of a packed stadium.

“There were a lot of problems with starts and commands in Bhubaneswar. I heard something from the crowd after ‘set’ and I took off,” he says.

To add to his misery, the Indian 4x100m relay team was disqualified for a baton exchange outside the permitted zone. Mallick was one of the men who had fumbled.

But he brushed away the disappointment and whipped out a personal-best 21.03s in the 200m.

“I could have done better in the 100m this season, probably brought the National record to 10.20,” he says.

“Doing well in Bhubaneswar would have probably helped me do the Jamaica programme once again, but unfortunately I had a false start… otherwise, things could have been very different.”

Mallick still continues with the training schedules given by his Jamaican coach. And that is why, he feels, going to the national camp will not help.

“If you have a coach at the national camp, you need to follow his system, you cannot do something given by a foreign coach,” he explains. “I train with my State coach N.M. Deo, who has been coaching me since my childhood, and we do the Jamaican workouts at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. It works well for me, so I thought, why move out?”

The Athletics Federation of India has often said that athletes skip national camps to avoid the frequent dope tests there. And the federation appeared to have a point there.

But Mallick explained his case.

“I have always been co-operative when it comes to dope-testing. Before the Asians, I was tested. We also have a whereabouts system where you can be tested wherever we are. In fact, I was once tested in Jamaica after a competition,” he says.

“Anyway, my National record came in New Delhi, not in a place like Almaty.”

Two years ago, China’s Su Bingtian became the first native Asian to go under 10 seconds in a Diamond League event in the US, when he clocked 9.99s; now, the Japanese are threatening to go below the 10-sec barrier.

When will India have its first sub-10 man?

“In a few years, you will see Indians doing that. We have people from the tribal and hilly areas who are strong and well-built; they just need proper guidance and exposure,” Mallick says.

“My ultimate goal is to do that too. But you need perfect conditions for that. I just hope 2018 turns out to be a good one for me.”

It’s a tough world out there on the fast lane, but Mallick is willing to give it his all.


The 10-second mark has been breached far more frequently in recent times, but it remains a physical and psychological standard. A look at sub-10 feats across time and geography

Decade Number of athletes Best time

1960s 1 9.95

1970s 1 9.98

1980s 6 9.92

1990s 22 9.79

2000s 44 9.58 (WR, Bolt)

2010s 50 9.63

Continent Number of athletes Best time

Africa 19 9.85

Asia 3 9.91

Europe 14 9.86

Oceania 1 9.93

North and Central America 87 9.58 (WR, Bolt)

South America 0 10.00 [At altitude]

Where Mallick stands

His best (10.26s, set in 2016) would have won Olympic gold at all Games up to Melbourne 1956

Currently, a few more than 100 countries have better national records

Almost an equal number of countries have slower marks


Records only recognised when:

Wind assistance is not more than 2m/s in direction of travel

Fully automatic timing to 1/100th of a second is available

There is no use of performance-enhancing substances

Source: IAAF

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 9:09:23 PM |

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