National Athletics coach highlights India's problem at 4x400 women's relay
Chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair attributes a lack of backup as the reason behind India's struggle to string a team for the 4x400m women's relay.
Winner of five successive gold from 2002 to 2018 in women's 4x400m relay, India is struggling to string together a six-member team for the upcoming Asian Games, and chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair attributed it to the lack of back-up from junior athletes.
The reason for the lack of backup is "burnout" due to "overtraining at a young age".
Nair said India will struggle to win a gold medal in the Hangzhou Asian Games (September 23 to October 8) as some of the promising quarter-milers faded out after doing extremely well at the junior level.
"We are not getting the backup from junior to senior. The best (among juniors) are burnt out. At a young age, they are overtrained very badly," Nair told PTI on the sidelines of the National Inter-State Athletics Championship here.
He gave the examples of Rupal Chaudhary of Haryana, who won an individual 400m bronze with an impressive 51.85sec time besides being part of the silver-winning 4x400m relay in the World U-20 Championships last year in Colombia, as well as of rising quarter-milers Priya Mohan and Rezoana Mallick Heena.
"You must have seen Rupal (Chaudhary), where is she? She ran five races last year in Cali, Colombia (World U-20 Championships). In the last race, she ran her best. But she has been overtrained from a young age. Priya Mohan also, I am afraid, her performance is deteriorating. Same thing in the case of Rezoana. She's just 16 and can just burn up. At 16-17 years of age, they should be trained properly. We are not supposed to specialize a child in 400m at the age of 14 or 15," said Nair.
"This women's 400m event is very popular, because of the Asian Games gold medal (in the 4x400m relay), a lot of money coming in, a lot of popularity, the Arjuna Award, etc, so most of the coaches know their wards are good at 100m and 200m but will still put them in 400m," he added further.
He said it was not a question of all the promising junior athletes joining the national camp but it was about proper training.
Apart from burnout among the athletes, Nair said AFI has a policy of not including non-campers in the 4x400m relay team but some of the top quarter-milers are training outside camp.
"We have Anjali Devi and Aishwarya Mishra who can run sub-53sec and Dandi Jyothika Sri in the camp. Himanshi Malik (Haryana) has agreed to come to the camp. R Vithya Ramraj (sub 53sec on Thursday) was at camp earlier but not now and we don't know where Prachi is," he said.
Nair is hoping that Himanshi, as well as Rezoana, would join the national camp immediately after the National Inter-State so that the Indian 4x400m team can train together for the Asian Games.
Nair is happy that Anajli has come back after almost three years to clock a good time in the 400m heats. "She was impressive in 2019, she ran 51-plus but in one of the training sessions, she suffered a muscle tear."
Nair said the men's 4x400m relay has a brighter chance than their women's counterpart to do better in the Asian Games.
"Muhammed Ajmal, Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Rajesh Ramesh, these four are expected to run below 46 seconds. Muhammed Ajmal and Rajesh Ramesh ran sub-46 in Ranchi (Federation Cup last month). Then we have Mijo Chacko Kurian who can run sub-46," Nair said.
"Noah Tom also runs sub-46 but he is injured, ACL tear and he is not expected to run this season."