Asian Games bronze medal winner Arokia Rajiv was coming into the Federation Cup after missing out on the gold in the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix. On Sunday, he was beaten by fellow national camper Muhammed Anas who clocked 45.41 seconds to take the gold. Anas’ timing was manually recorded (only electronic timings are ratified) because of a power failure at the stadium. But he proved to have the potential to challenge the country’s best.
On Friday, there was talk of Anas once again toppling Rajiv. Ahead of the race both of them playfully pushed each other before stepping on the track and lowering themselves into the starting blocks.
By the 200-metre mark Anas was closing in on Rajiv but as the runners came into the final curve it was clear there would be no upset today. The competition from the younger Anas and armymate ensured that Rajiv didn’t ease till he crossed the finish line in the final. In the process of keeping his reputation intact, Rajiv (45.47 seconds) also broke the 12-year-old national record which stood in the name of KM Binu (45.48), set at the Athens Olympics.
For the 25-year-old from a small village outside Tiruchirappalli the journey to become the fastest quartermiler in the country has been an ardous one. The son of a lorry driver Soundharajan, Rajiv began running without shoes and then borrowed spikes from a friend when he competed at the state level. In his quest to rise above his circumstances, Rajiv took the army route. “I joined the Madras Regimental Centre as a sepoy because I knew there were good facilities. Since joining the army, I have been able to improve as an athlete,” Rajiv, who is now part of the national camp, said.
Rajiv’s next aim is to try and qualify for the Olympics, the qualifying standard for which stands at 45.40 seconds.
Anilda beats Poovamma again
The sub-plot in the women’s 400 metres final was an interesting one because it pitted a national camper MR Poovamma against Anilda Thomas, who has so far stayed away from being coached by Ukraine-born Yuri Ogorodnik.
For the second time in less than a week, Anilda beat the star of the women’s 400 metres to win gold at the Federation Cup. If the 22-year-old’s win in the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix was seen as a freak result, on Friday she dispelled any doubts about how good she had become. Anilda won the gold with a timing of 52.40, while Poovamma finished second after stopping the clock at 52.60. Though the Olympic qualifying mark stands at 52.20, the women’s 400 final is used to gauge the form of the runners who can be considered for the relay event, in which the Indian team is pushing for a place at the Rio Games.
After today’s gold-medal winning performance Anilda, who has had a change of heart, will be joining the national camp. Moreover, with Ogorodnik in charge of the relay team, Anilda had no other option but to come under his wings if she wanted to make the squad.
“I will be joining the national camp shortly,” Anilda said after the race. Her coach Jaikumar PB too hopes that under the foreign coach, Anilda will scale new heights. “If she can improve her timing and excel even further I am only happy to let her join the national camp. I have trained her to the best of my ability. Now, it is for others to help her reach greater heights,” Jaikumar said.
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