Disappointed by Asian Games exclusion, Abha Khatua targets 2024 Olympics
Despite crossing the 18m mark twice in two months, Shot Putter Abha Khatua failed to make it to the Asian Games athletics squad.
28-year-old Abha Khatua won't be boarding the plane to Hangzhou, China for the Asian Games despite equalling the national record of 18.06m in the Shot Put and a silver medal at the Asian Athletics Championships 2023.
The reason behind the exclusion of Abha Khatua is the time specified for qualification for the Asian Games. The National Inter-State Championships in June was one of the final events for selection and Abha failed to beat Manpreet Kaur and Kiran Baliyan, resulting in the other shot putters getting a nod for the athletics team.
One day after the deadline to send teams, on 16th July, Abha won silver at the Asian Athletics Championships with a national record-equalling throw of 18.06m.
Adille Sumariwalla, President of the Athletics Federation of India, clarified that her exclusion is due to the rules and deadline for sending the team list.
Replying on X (formerly Twitter), Adille said," Abha didn't qualify before the deadline day of the Asian Games. She did well after that period and nothing can be done about it due to the rules."
Khatua also won the gold medal at Indian Grand Prix 5 after throwing 18.02m and bettered Kiran Baliyan and Manpreet Kaur.
"I am a bit sad but we can't go against the rules. The last date (for submission of names of athletes for Asian Games) was July 15 and my event at the Asian Championships was on July 16. That is why, I am not on the Asian Games squad," Abha told PTI after her throw at IGP.
Eyes set on Olympic qualification
While the ship has sailed for Asian Games qualification now, Abha has her eyes fixed on the 2024 Paris Olympics qualification. Leaving the disappointment of the Asian Games behind, Abha plans to put more focus on reaching the 18.80m mark which is an Olympic qualifying standard that no Indian woman has ever been able to reach.
Khatua has a long list of upcoming events she wants to win for her target of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The qualifying window is from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024. She has set her eyes on medals in National Games which are scheduled in Goa in October and National Open Championships.
The recent success of Abha can be attributed to her technique change in the past few months. The rotation technique she learned last year took time to give results but proved quite beneficial for her.
She changed to the rotation from the gliding technique, All the top shot putters in the world have the rotation technique, and the coaches in the national camp advised her to change from the glide technique to rotation one.
From Heptahlon to Shot Put
Hailing from Khurshi, a small village in West Bengal close to Narayangarh town, Abha comes from a farmer family.
She tried out many athletics events before settling for the shot put four years ago.
"I started athletics from 7th class. Initially, I did 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump, and javelin. I started heptathlon in 2017-18 but I was not good at the high jump (one of the seven events in heptathlon), so I left it.," Abha told NNIS Sports.
"I shifted to shot put at the end of 2018 and I joined the national camp at Patiala in 2019," she added.
While she has hit her purple patch now, it was not the same some time back.
The 28-year-old's health began to deteriorate in 2020–21, and she had to sit out the majority of the season. She also hurt her wrist somewhere in March. She tested positive for COVID-19 one month later. She also developed edema on her legs, which made exercise harder.
She experienced severe chikungunya following her recovery from COVID-19, which also caused her to lose weight. It took Abha Khatua several months to get healthy again and perform at her best.
She surpassed the 17-meter barrier for the first time at the Indian Open Throws competition in Patiala in February 2022. Following her recovery, Khatua opted to change in technique which helped her to cover more distance.
Currently ranked 69 in women’s shot put world rankings with 18.06M as her personal best, Abha has quite some work to reach the Olympic automatic qualification mark.