Paris Olympics: India’s relay teams ready to show that they mean business

"Reaching a month earlier for the World Relays helped us acclimatise better," says anchor leg runner Amoj Jacob

The men's relay quartet after earning a ticket to Paris (photo: SAI)
The men's relay quartet after earning a ticket to Paris (photo: SAI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Indian relay teams have historically never cut much ice on the Olympics or World Championship stages—but the current men's and women’s teams seem to have different ideas!

Earlier this month, the likes of Amoj Jacob and Mohammed Anas Yahiya capped their stirring performances at the Worlds in Budapest and the Asian Games gold last year by making the quota for the Paris Olympics.

The men’s 4 x 400 metres relay team finished behind the mighty US in the Olympics qualifying round 2 of the World Relays Championship in Nassau, in the Bahamas, with a time of 3:03.23. The women’s quartet emulated them.

The men had to cope with the hamstring injury of Rajesh Ramesh in the qualifying round 1 and maintain a time close to the 3-minute barrier. They made it to 3:10 for Paris.

The women’s team, comprising Rupal Chaudhary, M.R. Poovamma, Jyothika Sri Dandi and Subha Venkatesan, finished second in their second-round heat with a time of 3:29.35, behind Jamaica.

‘’Reaching Nassau a month ahead of the World Relays certainly helped us acclimatise better," said Amoj Jacob, who ran the anchor leg. "We have got to thank the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), as other teams had barely reached a week ahead of the event.’’

Speaking to SAI media, Jacob said it was not easy to battle the pressure of expectations after their Budapest bow (where they qualified for the finals and finished fifth), followed by the gold in Hangzhou Asian Games. The team, comprised of Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Rajesh Ramesh and Muhammad Ajmal Variyathodi, finished with a time of 3:01.58. 

‘’We knew that we had the US in our heats and they mostly run below 3 minutes. Our plan was to stay close to them in the race, which would not only improve our time but also help us qualify for the Paris Games,’’ Jacob said. 

Offering a peek into their build-up in the Bahamas, he added: ‘’My body took almost a week to adapt to the weather conditions and time difference there. I was sleeping in the afternoon and not being able to sleep at night due to the time zone change.

"The entire team faced the same problem and it was good that we reached Bahamas a month earlier. However, looking at the same beach every day did get boring at times." 

"Our primary target was to qualify for Paris 2024. It was unfortunate that Rajesh (Ramesh) suffered a hamstring injury in the Olympics qualifying round 1—else, the team could have comfortably clocked below the three-minute barrier.

"Despite the setback, we were able to book our berth for Olympics — it is highly motivating,’’ Jacob said. 

Coached by Jamaican Jason Dawson with the SAI backing, the relay contingent has been able to shed any form of stage fright and now want to give it their best shot in Paris.

‘’It was easy, because we were practising together and we had trained the baton exchange with different combinations," said Jacob. "The only concern was to ensure that no one else got injured.

"In fact, it is easier than the 100 meters relay, where better coordination is required. It was hence an easy transition for us and because (Arokia) Rajiv was with us for a long time—he was in the camp, he was our senior—so he knew what to expect and what not, and it was easy,” Jacob added.   

Amoj Jacob running the anchor leg at the 4 x 400m Olympic qualifying round at the World Relays, Bahamas (photo: SAI)
Amoj Jacob running the anchor leg at the 4 x 400m Olympic qualifying round at the World Relays, Bahamas (photo: SAI)
Sports Authority of India

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