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Sunday, August 01, 2021

2020 Tokyo Games will ‘miss’ maidens from Kerala athletics

Beginning legendary P T Usha in 1980 Moscow Games to her own protégé Jisna Mathew in 2016 Rio Games, 15 athletes have represented India for the past 11 Olympics but this time there will be no women athlete from Kerala

Written by S S Manoj |
Updated: July 6, 2021 10:15:11 pm
tokyo games 2020, tokyo olympics 2020, tokyo olympics indian athletes, tokyo olympics no kerala athletes, olympics kerala athletes achievements, pt ushaPT Usha during a training session with coach OM Nambiar (Credit: Usha's personal photo album)

No less than 15 women athletes who have made India proud in the past 11 Olympic Games are from Kerala.

After 40 years, at Tokyo Games starting this month end, there will be no Kerala women athletes in the Indian team which was announced on Monday evening.

Record seven men athletes are competing this time: KT Irfan (20km race walker), MP Jabir (400m hurdles), M Sreeshankar, (long jump) and relay runners Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Noah Nirmal tom, Amoj Jacob and Alex Antony.

For small mercies, one will have to wait till Wednesday whether Usha will make it as coach of Indian team. The decision on coaches and support staff to travel with athletes is pending.

Usha’s trainee Jisna Mathew finished fourth in the trial to select women runners for the mixed relay team which India qualified by virtue of their performance in the 2019 Doha World Championships.

Rio 2016 Olympics, Rio Olympics, Rio Olympics women's relay, Rio Olympics Jisna Mathew, Jisna Mathew, Jisna Mathew profile, Jisna Mathew women's 4x400 m relay, Jisna Mathew medals,Jisna Mathew records, 4x400m relay, relay Jisna (left) with PT Usha.

VK Vismaya who ran the anchor in the gold medal winning 4x400m mixed team in 2018 Jakarta Asian Games finished last in the trial held on Sunday evening in Patiala.

Here are the stars from Kerala who went on to represent the country in Olympics from 1980 till 2016:

PT Usha (1980 Moscow, 1984 Los Angeles, 1988 Seoul), MD Valsamma (1984 LA), Mercy Kuttan (1988 Seoul), Shiny Abraham (’84 LA, ’88 Seoul, ’92 Barcelona, ’96 Atlanta), Rosakutty (1996 Atlanta), KM Beenamol (’96 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens), Jhincy Philip and Manjima Kuriakose (2000 Sydney), Anju Bobby George (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing), Bobby Aloysius (2004 Athens), Chitra K Soman (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing), Preeja Sreedharan & Sini Jose (2008), Mayookha Johnny (2012 London), Tintu Lukka (2012, 2016 Rio), Anilda Thoams and Jisna Mathew (2016, Rio).

“Don’t blame the athletes. During Covid times how do you expect them to train and practise when the stadiums, gymnasiums were closed? Then you have to keep social distance, mask your face all the time. These are difficult and tough times for athletes,” KM Beenamol, who represented India in three Olympics, told indianexpress.com on Tuesday. Beena was medallist in both Asian meets and Asian Games in 400m, 800m and women’s 4x400m relay during her career from 1992 as a Asian junior winner to 2004 Athens Games.

However, renowned jumps coach TP Ouseph had altogether a different take. “We only have to blame ourselves. There are nine synthetic stadiums in Kerala and none were operational because of Covid. The Union sports ministry had directed that stadiums can be used by national campers and those athletes competing to achieve Olympic qualification. Nothing happened despite the minister’s directive,” said the former coach of Anju and Bobby. Long jumper Anju went on to become the only Indian to win a medal in the world championship while Bobby, high jumper, became Asian champion and Asiad medallist.

“The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) should decentralise the national camp rather than insisting on the camp only in Patiala. In the Olympic year, the federation could have done it (decentralised) but insisted on keeping the national camp in Patiala for the past two years and look at now. We failed to utilise the advantage. Look at the foreign athletes and how well they are performing.” Ouseph added.

“No doubt we are missing the likes of (PT) Usha, (MD) Valsamma, Shiny (Abraham) … or even Tintu for the past several years. This time we’re pinning our hopes on Vismaya (VK) but then she was hit by injuries – hamstring, ankle. She lost precious time as her recovery took 40 days otherwise she was in roaring form and a runner who is capable of doing sub 53-seconds in the 400m. Sheer bad luck,” said PI Babu, secretary, Kerala State Athletics Association.

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