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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tokyo 2020: Fastest in Asia, yet not quick enough in men’s 4×400 relay

The moment the timings popped up on the giant screen, Indian runners exchanged fist bumps and high-fives, knowing it was a creditable performance considering how their training in the run-up had been hampered due to covid-induced travel restrictions.

Written by Andrew Amsan |
Updated: August 7, 2021 12:35:33 pm
4x400 men relay tokyo olympics, Mohammed Anas, Noah Nirmal Tom, Arokia Rajiv, Amoj Jacob, asia fastest tokyo olympics 4x400 relayIn this Olympic cycle, the relay squad coached by Russian-American Galina Bukharina could not travel overseas at all for any competitions or training camps (Screenshot: Olympics/YouTube)

With Amoj Jacob anchoring the charge with a sub 45s run, India’s 4x400m men’s quartet rewrote the Asian mark, clocking 3:00.25s in the heats at the Tokyo Olympics. But even the record-breaking effort of Mohammed Anas (45.6s), Noah Nirmal Tom (45.0s), Arokia Rajiv (44.84s) and Amoj Jacob (44.68s) wasn’t enough to seal a spot in the finals as they finished ninth overall and fourth in their heats.

The moment the timings popped up on the giant screen, Indian runners exchanged fist bumps and high-fives, knowing it was a creditable performance considering how their training in the run-up had been hampered due to covid-induced travel restrictions.

In this Olympic cycle, the relay squad coached by Russian-American Galina Bukharina could not travel overseas at all for any competitions or training camps. The strict bio-bubble meant players could not even step out of the premises of the National Institute of Sports, let alone going out for a short trip.

23-year-old Delhi resident Amoj Jacob’s final and fastest lap on Friday was crucial in helping the squad eclipse Qatar’s three-year-old Asian record of 3:00.56s. As soon as he reached the room after his event, he video-called his family back in Delhi to tell them how relieved and pleased he was.

It hasn’t been an easy last two years for the Jacobs. They had to make some tough calls during the pandemic to keep their son’s Olympic dreams alive. Amoj’s mother Mary Kutty, the head nurse at the Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, contracted COVID last year July while he was training in the camp.

“He was adamant on coming back. But we knew if he had come his training would derail. My condition wasn’t that bad but I had respiratory issues. I had to video call him every day to show him I was okay and being taken care of. We did not want him to travel and risk getting infected. We know how much the Olympics meant to him,” says Mary.

Mary got affected post-vaccination again in May this year. This time the symptoms were mild but she lost her voice for a month. “I kept in touch with Amoj through texting,” said Mary. Prayer is an integral part of the Jacobs family and mother Mary ensures Amoj completes his share of prayers even while he’s at the camp in Patiala. Having a deeply religious roommate in Noah Nirmal Tom, who ran the second leg, does help.

“Once I was sleeping. And I heard some noises. It was a little dark and I was still half asleep. I saw this figure near the bed with raised hands and I almost panicked. Then I realised it was Noah praying,” Amoj recalls.

It’s not only his parents that have high hopes for Amoj but his coach Galina as well. She feels the Kerala born Delhi-based athlete is still a work in progress. “He gets a little fussy at times during training. But I understand he’s still a baby. But I will give him credit some time (laughs),” Galina had said a couple of months back. But for now after the record-breaking run, Amoj probably just deserves a gentle pat on the back.

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