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Tokyo 2020

Noah's 'anchor run' took India to Olympics. But can Nirmal Tom repeat his heroics?

Running the anchor leg in the Mixed 4x400m at the World Championships in Doha, Noah Nirmal Tom helped India qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

Noah Nirmal Tom (Source: SAI Media/Twitter)

Noah Nirmal Tom (Source: SAI Media/Twitter)


Abhijit Nair

Updated: 15 Jun 2021 9:33 AM GMT

While a lot of Indian track and field athletes are currently working towards qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics before the qualification period ends on 29th June 2021, the 4x400m Mixed relay team booked their berth in Tokyo way before the pandemic struck, when they entered the finals of World Athletics Championships at Doha in 2019.

The four sprinters who ran in Doha were Muhammed Anas, VK Vismaya, Jisna Matthew and Noah Nirmal Tom. While Anas and Vismaya gained a slight lead during the first and second leg of their heats, things seemed to be falling apart for India when Jisna was overtaken by the runners from Japan and Poland to push India into the third position.

India was further pushed into the fifth position soon due to a mix-up during the final baton exchange. Running the anchor leg, Noah Nirmal Tom made sure that he does not lose his composure and helped India finish third. Not only did this run help India enter the final of the World Championships, but it also helped them to a direct qualification to the Tokyo Olympics.

Even though the Indian quartet finished seventh in the final, they had made it to the Olympics by qualifying for the final, and a new star emerged for Indian athletics in the form of Noah Nirmal Tom.

Hailing from the southern Indian state of Kerala, Noah was a huge football fan growing up. In fact, he still follows football with the same passion and appeared as a guest in the 'Chelsea Ke Superfans' hosted by Bollywood star Arjun Kapoor.

How did such a big football buff end up representing the country in athletics?

Noah was studying in the sixth grade when the physical instructor of his school spotted his talent. It was on his insistence that Noah focused all his energy on athletics. Having already made a name for himself in the local circuits, he made his way to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) hostel in Kozhikode in the year 2010.

This move worked wonders for a young Noah as he got a glimpse as to how his life would be as a professional athlete. Besides, he also got to develop his skills under the eyes of well-known coach George P. Joseph. In fact, it was Joseph who guided Noah into the 400m sprints from the shorter 100m and 200m dash.

After spending four years at the SAI academy in Kozhikode and producing some consistent results in the track, Noah was offered a job with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Training under the guidance of Rajmohan MK at the IAF proved to be a blessing in disguise for him.

Noah was a raw product with loads of talent when he joined the IAF. Rajmohan developed him into a polished product. It was under Rajmohan that Noah recorded his first sub-46 second timing. A run of 45.96 seconds to clinch the All India Inter-Services Athletics Championships in Jalahalli during September 2018 propelled him to the Indian camp for the first time in the very next month.

There has been no looking back since for the 26-year-old, who has gone on to establish himself as one of the premier quarter milers in the country. He made his international debut during the Indian Grand Prix at Patiala in 2019 and finished fifth.

With a personal best of 45.75 seconds clocked during the Czech Club Championships at Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, in August 2019, Noah stormed his way to the Indian 4x400m relay team for the World Championships in Doha and helped India earn a direct qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Soon after returning from Doha, Noah was named the National Champion in Men's 400m at the National Athletics Championships in Ranchi.

Having already booked a quota for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with the 4x400m Mixed relay team, he is currently sweating it out with the Men's 4x400m relay team to qualify for the Olympics from the upcoming Indian Grand Prix 4.

Noah is currently way off the entry standard for qualifying for the Olympics in the individual 400m sprint. Besides, he is not even in the top 100 in the 'Road to Olympics Games 2020' rankings, meaning that he will be in action only in the relay event/s at Tokyo unless he produces a magical performance at the Indian Grand Prix 4.

He might well miss out on qualifying for the individual event at the Tokyo Olympics, but Noah Nirmal Tom continues to be a vital cog in the wheel for the Indian relay teams.

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