The women’s 400m will be one of the disciplines that will attract attention during the 60th National Open Athletics Championships starting September 15 in Warangal.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will be scouting for fresh talent during the five-day year-ending senior domestic competition. The 400m event is one of the main disciplines and the AFI will be giving special attention to the event, with an eye toward building a national 4x400m relay team for the 2022 Asian Games.
While the women’s team failed, the men’s 4x400m relay team made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
India's elite female 400m runners came up short for Tokyo 2020
In the build-up to the Tokyo Games, India’s elite female 400m runners, including Karnataka’s 31-year-old international MR Poovamma, weren’t impressive. Only the top 16 world-ranked national teams qualify for the Olympics and India failed to make it into the women’s 4x400m relay.
Haryana’s 22-year-old Anjali Devi, one of India’s leading female 400m runners, was among those on the injured list. During a domestic competition, the Haryana international suffered a strain in her quadriceps muscle in March this year.
Consequently, she wasn’t able to contribute to the national team.
While she has since recovered, Anjali will skip the Warangal competition. A national athletics coach said:
“Anjali has recovered from the injury she sustained in March. She has started a general fitness programme but isn’t fit to compete.”
In a national domestic competition organized in Lucknow in 2019, Anjali clocked a 400m time of 51.53 seconds. Subsequently, she qualified for the Doha World Athletics Championships that year but suffered a first-round exit.
She couldn’t repeat her sub-52 seconds performance in 2020 or 2021 either.
In fact, none of the core group of 400m female runners in attendance at India's Tokyo Olympic preparatory national camp in Patiala could clock under 52 seconds.
Karnataka’s seasoned quarter-miler MR Poovamma was the most consistent among the women’s 400m runners. Her season's best was 53.45 seconds, clocked in February. Poovamma’s personal best of 51.73 seconds was clocked in 2014.
But in June, she was injured and quit the national camp.
Javelin throw is another important discipline for India, as Neeraj Chopra won gold in the men’s javelin throw at last month’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
The National Open Athletics Championships have, in the past, turned out to be an excellent platform for young blood to showcase their caliber. The Warangal competition will be another good opportunity. The coach said:
“Let’s see if the new crop of athletes are able to make an impact in Warangal. A good performance will surely enable the athletes to earn a place in the national camp for 2022 season.”