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Barring Priya Mohan from national relay teams will be India's loss: Coach

Priya Mohan is determined to prove with her individual performances - from the Federation Cup this week to the Asian Games later this year - that the AFI's decision to not let her enter the Indian relay team is their loss.

Barring Priya Mohan from national relay teams will be Indias loss: Coach

Priya Mohan (2nd from left) helped India win a first-ever relay medal at the World U-20 Championships (AFI)


SS Manoj

Updated: 12 April 2022 4:30 PM GMT

India's fastest quartermiler Priya Mohan will not be allowed to be part of India's relay teams at the Asian Games this year, but the 19-year-old's coach said she will prove to the federation that barring her is the country's loss.

"Priya's father has promised the AFI that she cannot do anything wrong vis-à-vis doping. Despite the word given by her father, the federation is saying that she won't be considered for the relay team. We don't understand this. This won't be Priya's loss, it'll be a loss for the country, as she will prove in individual races," Arjun Ajay, Priya's personal coach of five years, told The Bridge over phone from Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Top AFI officials Lalit Bhanot and national chief coach Dornacharya Radhakrishnan Nair are determined to prevent Priya from making an entry into the relay team because she is not part of the national camp with the rest of India's elite athletes. There are whispered concerns that she is not part of the camp because of doping.

Her coach flatly turned down this logic. "This (doping concern) is something we can't understand. Priya is being tested by doping agencies on a quarterly basis as she is in the pool of universality of athletics. Priya has to reveal her whereabouts to the doping agencies," the coach said.

Priya Mohan trains for the Federation Cup

Priya had been left out of the Indian 4x400m mixed relay team for the Tokyo Olympics also for the same reason. In explanation, Arjun indicated that Priya is not part of the national camps because they do not want to expose her too much too early.

"Our ultimate aim is to win an Olympic medal in 2024 (Paris) or 2028 (Los Angeles) and do sub-51 seconds this year. There is no hurry for Priya," he said.

"She proved herself in Nairobi (World U20 Athletics Championships), where the Indian mixed relay team won a bronze medal for the first time. She was in the camp for two weeks in Patiala for that meet. In Nairobi Worlds last year, she ran five races – three relay races and two individual races. In the 400m final, Priya missed a bronze medal by a mere 0.50 seconds. We don't want Priya to go the way of the great Milkha Singh and PT Usha," the coach added.

Priya Mohan looks to use Federation Cup as launch pad

Knowing well that only top-class competitions will make the Tumkur-born but Bengaluru- settled athlete prepare her for an important year ahead, Priya Mohan is now eyeing gold at the upcoming National Federation Cup Senior Athletics Championships from April 2 to 6 at the Calicut University Stadium, Tenjhipalam in Malappuram, Kerala. This is the same venue where she made headlines by setting the meet record during the South Zone junior meet last year.

Priya Mohan has been making her mark at the domestic level for the past two seasons, but she is now determined to make her mark at the world level. The Federation Cup will set her up for the Universiade, the Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games to be held from June 26 to July 7 in China, followed by the prestigious 2022 World Athletics U20 Championships at the Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero in Cali, Colombia from August 2 to 7. This will be followed by the Asian Games in September, for which she has already achieved the entry standard of 53.19s during the IGPs in Trivandrum.

"She has rarely been tested in the junior level, where she proved her precocious talent in 2018. Even in the senior level, she has beaten all the established and experienced runners in 400m like MR Poovamma, Jisna Mathew and Vismaya VK. She missed the podium finish at the World U20 Athletics Championships last year by a whisker. This time we're determined to make it and our complete focus is on the Cali Worlds and Chengdu Universiade," Arjun Ajay said.

Arjun has not placed any bets on his famed trainee to qualify for the Oregon World Championships, where the entry standard is 51.35 seconds, or for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where the qualifying time is set at 50.35s.

Priya's personal best is 52.37s which she set during the Indian Grand Prix 2 at Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium here on March 23.

Priya, the country's fastest quartermiler as of now, is the daughter of HA Mohan, a judge with CBI, the country's top investigation agency, and courts in Bengaluru, and homemaker Chandrakala, a national level kho-kho player during her school and college days. She has one elder brother who is studying law.

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