Poland show not accurate reflection of India’s chances

Hima Das is part of the elite Indian quartermilers training for more than two months in Spala, Poland   | Photo Credit: Ben Hoskins

Touted as a strong prospect for India at the Tokyo Olympics, Hima Das is currently the toast of the nation for winning back-to-back races in the first week of July.

Hima is part of the elite Indian quartermilers training for more than two months in Spala, Poland, along with a few javelin throwers and shot-putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor. However, it is important to put things in perspective.

The most common refrain for going abroad is quality competition that is not possible in India. That, however, does not bear out. At Poznan, there were just a handful of Jamaicans and Thai runners across all events, none among the top runners from their respective countries. Even the top Polish athletes were missing.

Hima won the 200m in 23.65 seconds, far from her personal best of 23.10 while V.K. Vismaya was third in 23.75, a personal best. Mohd. Anas Yahya was the only one who came close to doing his best, registering a season’s best timing of 20.75 (his record is 20.63) in 200m to finish third.

All-India race

In the women’s 400m, it was an all-India race that saw all four time over 54 seconds. The best-placed Indian male quartermiler was K.S. Jeevan with 47.25s. Kunhu Mohammed managed 47.48, a far cry from even his season’s best of 46.47 at the Federation Cup earlier this year. Tejinderpal Singh Toor could not cross the 20m mark.

At Kutno, the Indians ran amongst themselves and against club athletes from around Poland. Hima and Vismaya slipped to 23.97 and 24.06 respectively but still completed a 1-2 for India. For the record, her gold-winning performance in Poznan will not put her among the top-300 in the world today.

“The federation itself is realistic. These competitions are mainly in and around the athletes’ training base in Spala and are entered into for experience. They are not part of the official annual calendar,” an AFI official admitted.

However, it may be noted that the Sports Ministry has approved ₹65.93 lakh for competitions in Spala and around, probably including the Czech Republic, for nine athletes and two coaches during the period 15 June to 15 August.

With club level competition and falling standards, one wonders about the supposed gains for the Indian athletes in such long camps abroad without adequate international competitions.

It’s not just the runners whose performances raise questions. Javelin thrower Shivpal Singh, who managed an impressive 86.23m at the Asian meet, has been slipping gradually, his last outing being 76.90 in Poland. Vipin Kasana has not participated at all during this time while Davinder Singh Kang and Rajinder Singh have had poor outings in one event each.

A more accurate reflection of India’s chances and standards would be, therefore, at the World Championships in September-October. Till then, it would do well to temper hopes and adulation.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 3:30:09 PM |

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