Nanhi wins gold in 400m hurdles: Why she can be the trailblazer for the next-gen Indian athletes

Nanhi wins gold in 400m hurdles
Nanhi wins gold in 400m hurdles
Navneet Singh

Jamie West is an athletics coach from Utah, USA. She specializes in hurdles training and has helped polish Harayana athlete Nanhi polish her skills.

The 22-year-old Nanhi from Rohtak won gold in the women's 400m hurdles on Wednesday at the National U23 Athletics Championships. Her 59.58 seconds time was a personal best for Nanhi. The young athlete felt she could have done better had the race been more competitive. She said:

“I wasn’t tired when I crossed the finish line. Had the race been more competitive I could have improved my time of 59.58 seconds.”

Nanhi's decision to pick up hurdling was met with difficulties in Rohtak. It is not easy to find an expert in the sport, and her family's efforts went in vain. Thanks to social media, they were able to get in touch with Jamie West in Utah. Her uncle Surinder Pannu said:

“She (Jamie) has been guiding Nanhi for the past 12 months. Distance learning via video conference has been good so far. We send her videos of the workouts and she analyzes them and suggests ways and means to improve. The process has been going on for almost 12 months."

Nanhi and Jamie's association can be a pathfinder for the next generation of Indian athletes. They can follow in on her footsteps and try to find coaches for distance learning.

India has a rich history in low hurdles. In early 1980’s, 400m hurdles was the main attraction of Indian track and field. Kerala’s sprinting prodigy PT Usha narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. She finished fourth in 55.42 seconds, a national record for the country.

According to Nanhi, she was unable to train on the expected lines due to the pandemic this year. Since sporting facilities have opened in Rohtak, she is hopeful of better performances next season.

“We will get more time to train as sports facilities are open for practice in Haryana. I am hopeful of improving my performance in 2022 season,” said Nanhi.

To put things in perspective, the next competitive season will be more challenging. Top athletes will be aiming to make the cut for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in China. Nanhi’s family is aware of the challenges ahead.

“She (Nanhi) has to run faster. A time of 58 seconds or below would be good for an early 2022 domestic competition,” said Nanhi’s uncle.

Dhaval Utekar bagged the gold medal in men’s 400m hurdles

Dhaval Utekar won the men’s 400m hurdles at the National U23 Athletics Championships. He is also conscious of the fact that he has to practice more vigorously to make an impact at the senior level.

“I can’t relax after winning gold medal in the National U23 Athletics Championships. The coming months will be all about hard work,” said the 21-year-old hurdler.

Dhaval’s gold winning time of 51.05 seconds was his personal best. He was enrolled in the Air Force under the sports quota scheme last year.

The Air Force athlete was spotted by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) for the national development squad. He attended the national camp in Patiala for four months from January to April.

Low hurdles weren’t Dhaval’s first choice. Hailing from Nadiad, Dhaval played state-level hockey during his school days. At the insistence of a local coach, Dhaval briefly jumped to practice pole vault event, but later switched to the 400m hurdler.

“I was physical fit since my school days. It enabled me to adjust to 400m hurdles faster than expected,” said Dhaval.

Also Read: National U23 Athletics Championships results: Taranjeet Kaur and Komal Jagadale at the double

Edited by Diptanil Roy
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