For sprinter Srabani Nanda, the Rio Olympics was a largely forgettable affair. She finished 55th out of the 72 competitors and failed to qualify for the semifinals. But she realised her big dream of meeting her idol Usain Bolt at the Games Village and managed to interact with him. It was in Rio that she first came to hear about the MVP Track & Field Club in Kingston and their unique methodology. Soon sprouted the dream of training in the famous academy, where regulars include two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
A proposal was drafted and the state government approved Srabani and her coach Tarun Shan to train at the academy. Her sponsors too obliged and the state ensured the required financial assistance —the seven-month stay cost them nearly Rs 1 crore —so that she could materialise her dream of training in the sprint capital of the world.
On various aspects, the stint was a revelation for both. The training methods were so different and “revolutionary” that it baffled both Srabani and Shah. “In India, we always tell sprinters to give it all in the first 30 metres but that wasn’t the case there.The focus was on first stride. If you have good thrust in your start your will automatically catch speed in the last few meters,” he explains.
Srabani’s weight-training was also modified and the 26-year-old had to work hard on adding more thrust to her start. The diet was meat-heavy; which made her a little uneasy at first. “They eat a lot of beef there. But I don’t due to my religious beliefs. It is always a bit difficult to adjust when you move to new place, but I managed as this was not my first trip abroad,” she says.
So when she returned home for the Federation Cup, there was an understandable hype around her. There was also a perception she had to bust, that she is only second best to state-mate Dutee Chand. She managed to break that in 200m, clocking 23.57 seconds, which sufficed to beat Dutee by .3 seconds.
However, expectations of a “Jamaican-like” run at moment is unfair she believes. “This is just my first year there. I have changed my technique a lot. The start, the push and finish, all aspects have been fine-tuned but it will take some time.” While Friday’s performance may have slightly altered the always-the-second-best perception, the bigger challenge will be to beat Dutee in 100m. “She’s good in 200m but in 100m, I will do better,” avers Dutee. If Srabani can make her bite these words, she would be more than contended. And the perception banished for good.