Indian 4x400m women's relay team might not win a medal but their timings are better than ever
We cry and moan and whine, but the fact is that we religiously support anyone who can step out onto a sporting arena, go toe-to-toe with the world's best and come out on top. We may not have athletes of the same level of awe-inspiring talent but all it takes is one to trigger national support and jubilation. Especially seeing how our relay teams have done wonders to their speed or what Neeraj Chopra has been doing with better training facilities, it won't take us long to witness the first Olympic medal in this sport.
Hailing from Karnataka, M R Poovamma used to play a lot of sport as a child - be it 100m sprint or team games like football. After realizing she is good at it and upon the advice of her coach, the frontrunner of India’s relay team decided to run 400m and pursue it as a career. She progressed through the ranks and got selected for a National level meet.
This happened around ten years back. There was no looking back since then. Throughout her career, MR Poovamma impressed everyone with her breathtaking finish to ensure India continues its rich tradition of winning medals in relays.
Around 2011, the Beijing Olympian was struggling with a back injury and ended up missing the London Games. "There was a period when the injury refused to go away. It was a very frustrating time and my morale was at an all-time low," she said.
However, she returned a year later with the support of friends and families who helped her overcome the difficult period of life. Very soon, Poovamma was back at what she does best - running.
With the gold in women's 4x400m relay in 2013, India continued its domination in the continent having won a gold each in the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Asian Championships while finishing second in 2009 and 2011. India have also won gold in the last three Asian Games since 2002 in Busan.
"The 2014 Asian Games bronze 400m medal winning race is the most special moment of my sporting career. I won gold with the women’s relay team as well (4x400m) at the same competition,but to be honest we were confident of winning that medal," she added.
Winning an individual medal at the Asian Games in 400m is quite tough but the GoSports Foundation-supported athlete had always got the best of training facilities, physiotherapist, and masseuse whenever needed.
She was winning medals with her team at the Asian level consistently in 2015 and was confident of making the cut. But her goal was always the Rio Games.
Only Asian country to compete in 4x400m women’s relay at Rio
Each member of the relay team is important in a relay team and there is no specific leader. Everyone has a crucial role to play and everything is dependent on correct coordination and teamwork, particularly during baton exchanges. But Poovamma has always anchored the team.
The coordination suddenly began working brilliantly last year when they clocked their fastest time (3:29.08) at the IAAF World Championships which took place in Beijing. Early this year at the 2016 South Asian Games, the women's relay team finished the race with a timing of 3:35.44 to win the gold medal.
With top 16 teams going to the Summer Games and the qualification standards to be attained between the period, January 1, 2015, to July 11, 2016, according to the IAAF regulations, it was becoming tricky for Poovamma and Co. The finalists from last year’s World Relays in the Bahamas already secured automatic entry, filling up the first eight spots and the last eight were up for grabs.
But the quartet of Ashwini Akkunji, Anilda Thomas, Debashree Majumdar, and MR Poovamma clocked 3:31.39 seconds to win gold at the PTS Athletics Meeting in Slovakia and exactly after 7 days the team bettered their performance with a time of 3:30.16 seconds to fetch another gold medal at the International Sprint and Relay Teams Cup in Turkey.
The team made a tremendous improvement in their timing, clocking 3:27.88 seconds to virtually qualify for the Games at the Indian Grand Prix last month. The top three teams from both heats qualify for the finals and the next two fastest countries complete the list. Going by the current form and season best time, this team has the potential to finish in the top eight to advance in the competition.
The goal is always a medal, but it shall be difficult. There are some very tough competitors, internationally in track events and the key will be to first qualify from the heats and make it to the finals.
Once there, a medal is always a possibility.
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