Andhra Pradesh’s Dandi Jyothika Sri was a cynosure of all eyes on the penultimate day of the National U23 Athletics Championships. She emerged as the second-fastest Indian female 400-meter runner of the season.
The 21-year-old clocked 53.05 seconds to win the gold medal in the women’s 400m race on Tuesday at the eight-lane warmup track at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The time was Dandi’s personal and season-best.
“It was a hard race, but I enjoyed the atmosphere. I was confident of winning gold. But wasn’t sure if I would be able to run this fast (53.05 seconds),” she said in a post-race interaction.
Karnataka’s teenage runner Priya Mohan has clocked the fastest time this season having clocked 52.77 seconds at Nairobi’s World U20 Athletics Championships held last month in Kenya.
Dandi’s season best was 54.83 seconds clocked during the preliminary round of the National Open Athletics Championships, held recently in Warangal. She missed the final due to a false start. In January last year she clocked 54.70 seconds.
“I could have won gold in Warangal but was out of the final due to a false start in the final. I was focused on winning gold in New Delhi,” added Dandi.
The newly crowned 400m champion was quick off the blocks and halfway through the race, she was a clear winner.
She didn’t face any challenges in the home straight as her rivals weren’t able to generate the speed needed to catch up. As her opponents slowed down, Dandi shifted into another gear to cross the finish line in a season-best time of 53.05 seconds.
“Had someone pushed me in the second half of the race I could have clocked better time,” she said.
Dandi has been training under a new coach in N Ramesh
Dandi’s performance of 53.05 seconds will certainly act as a catalyst for the 2022 season, said her coach N Ramesh, a Dronacharya Awardee in athletics. Ramesh is a personal coach for sprinter Dutee Chand and is based out of Hyderabad.
“She (Dandi) has the potential to do better in 400m. We are hopeful she will do better in the 2022 season,” said Ramesh.
Ramesh said Dandi approached him six months ago for coaching. She wanted to focus on the 800m event. However, Ramesh suggested to try the 400m first and then move to a two-lap race. Dandi, in her formative years of athletics, has been focusing on 800m and 1000m.
“Dandi was training in Vijayawada under a different coach. But shifted to Hyderabad six months ago. We have been emphasizing speed training in the last five months. The results have been satisfactory,” said the coach.
Encouraged by Tuesday’s performance, the coach said, we will continue to focus on 400m events in the next domestic season.
“We have four-five months to build up for the 2022 season. We will continue to practice for the 400m event. Taking into account Dandi’s performance of 53.05 seconds, she has bright chances to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as Asian Games,” said the coach.