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The Indian quartermilers have been camping in Spala, Poland since the IAAF World Relays concluded on May 12 and much to the anticipation of the fans, started taking part in competitions from July 2. The athletes competed in two meets in Poland and three in the Czech Republic the last one of which was on July 20. The field of international athletes in these events was below par, and in a lot of cases, Indians were left running against themselves. Hima Das expectedly dominated the events and won five gold medals on the trot and the social media, including the celebrities, went berserk in congratulating her.
A careful look at the timings, however, told a different story.Hima' s season-best of 23.25 over 200 meters places here at 126th among the global athletes if considering their 2019 Season Bests. Hima also clocked a season-best of 52.09 in her only 400 meters race of this stretch. Given that she is coming back from a back injury, it can be considered decent progress but not something one must celebrate. The World U20 champion has set higher benchmarks for herself and would be eyeing to reach the World Championship qualification mark of 51.80 soon
The PositivesHima Das may have got the most accolades on social media, but the biggest positive from this competition stretch from an Indian perspective is Muhammed Anas Yahiya who seems to have regained his best form. Performances by Anas The 24-year-old struggled to break the 46 seconds barrier early in the season and finished 7ththe in the Asian Athletics Championships in April. In the Czech Republic, Anas bettered his own national record to 45.21s in Kladno on July 13 and then backed it up with a solid 45.40s four days later. His 45.21s also booked him a place at IAAF World Championship to be held in September later this year. Among the women, VK Vismaya continues to go from strength to strength. She ran three 400 meter races and created three personal bests - 52.58 in Goleniow, Poland on June 30, 52.54 in Kladno, the Czech Republic on July 13 and 52.48 in Nove Mesto, the Czech Republic on July 20. Her previous personal best of 53.27 came during the Federation Cup earlier this year. Vismaya ran two stellar relay legs at the Asian Athletics Championships in the women, and mixed relays and this performance was always on the cards. Performances by Vismaya Other decent performers included Nirmal Noah Tom, whose 45.96 during an inter-services meet last year, caught a lot of eyes. His performances have not been noteworthy since, but he seems to have rounded into some kind of form with 46.89, 46.59 and 46.05 clockings in the last three races. MP Jabir has already qualified for the World Championships in Doha, and he too seems in good form having clocked 50.21 and 49.66 in the two hurdles races he ran.
The Big QuestionsEverything, however, is far from perfect in the Indian camp. Rajiv Arokia' s injury management has raised a few eyebrows, and the Tamil Nadu lad returned to India from Spala a couple of weeks back. He has been out of action since Asian Athletics Championships in April, and there has been no proper diagnosis of his injury yet. Rajiv Arokia and Anas are the only two Indian athletes who have gone consistently under the 46-second barrier over one lap and if Rajiv doesn't recover timely before the World Championships, it will adversely affect the Indian chances in men and mixed relays. Dharun Ayyaswamy who holds the national record for 400m hurdles is another key member of the relay squad, and he too is out of action since March. Though he has started training, he hasn't competed in any event so far. The big question that now arises is whether India has adequate cover for injuries. Nirmal Noah Tom's form is definitely a positive, but the likes of Kunhu Mohammad and Amoj Jacob need to improve their timings. The quality of events that Indians have participated in gives us a lot of hope. Anas won the two 400m races with almost a second to spare, and surely he deserves to test himself against better opponents. The likes of Hima Das and VK Vismaya too didn't face any competition be it 200m or 400m. If the Indian athletes have to improve their personal bests and improve further, they need to compete in tougher events so that they can push themselves. None of the women have yet qualified for the World Championships and exposing them to more significant events can help them make the cut. A couple of media outlets have reported that AFI is planning to arrange more robust events starting mid-August. Only time will tell whether that indeed happens or not. Performances in Women's 400 metre The fans will keenly watch the performances of this bunch of 400m athletes as we build-up to the World Championships, given the Federation's special focus on it. For now, they are expected to take part in the Balkan relays on 24-25th on this month, and one would hope for improved performances.