Becoming only the third Indian to qualify for the Olympics in the 400 metres race event, Muhammad Anas ensured all eyeballs were on him as he took the field in the event in Rio in 2016. Having clocked 45.40 seconds – the exact mark needed for the Games – in the Polish Athletics Championships, Anas failed to advance to the next round in Rio, finishing 6th in the heats with a timing of 45.95. However, that was just the start of greater feats to follow, and three years hence, the 25-year old stands as one of the most promising athletes from India.
Anas’ struggles and journey thus far
The Kerala lad first took up sprinting in school by chance he was called in as a last-minute replacement for the MMHS School Team. Constant training meant that he excelled in University as well, and represented Calicut University at the national level. Having lost his father at an early age, it was his mother’s sacrifice and support that helped him play in the National Games in 2015, in which he won silver for Kerala while competing in the 4×400 metre relay team.
His career got a further boost when he was picked up by the scouting team of the Indian Navy. Trained under international athlete TG Ajesh, Anas soon went on to win a silver in his first-ever National Athletics Championships in the 400 metres event. For the first time ever, he clocked less than 46 seconds during the Indian Grand Prix and the Federation Cup events held in April 2016, after which he rose to number 13 in the world.
After a dismal showing in the Olympics, the moment to remember came during the Commonwealth Games last year, in which Anas finished fourth in the men’s 400 metre track event. Though a medal eluded him, he set a new national record for India, clocking 45.31 seconds, which is less than what the ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh achieved in the Melbourne CWG in 1958. Anas also became the first Indian in 60 years to reach the finals of a track event in the CWG.
Anas improved on his performance in the Asian Games that followed, and returned with a silver, after clocking 45.69 seconds. He topped the qualification and the semis round, but just fell behind Hassan Abdalelah of Qatar in the finals. It was not the only medal that Anas returned with from the Asiad, as the men’s relay team too won a silver. The mixed relay team too clinched silver, with Anas playing a huge role in both events.
This year, Anas created waves for winning gold in the men’s 300 metres sprinting category at the Athleticky Mitink Reiter event in the Czech Republic, clocking 32.41 seconds. He secured a spot in the World Championships with that performance but was unable to return with a medal from Doha.
Anas will now be eyeing a qualification spot for Tokyo 2020, and though the qualification timing of 44.90 in the 400 metres men’s is lower than his personal best, trust Anas to give it his all once again.