That Mohammad Anas won the men’s 400m in the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix comes as no surprise, but shattering the national mark and earning a ticket to the London World Championships, in the process, was something very few saw coming. The result was, in a way, an over-achievement for the 22-year-old, who had no intention of disturbing the record books, coming into the race.
At the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, watched by national campers and other athletes, the Kerala runner bettered his own national record of 45.40s, which he had set last year in Poland, with a sublime run of 45.32s. He finished ahead of his closest competitor and close friend Rajiv Arokia (46.32) by quite some distance. Sachin Baby managed to finish third with 47.18s on the clock. Anas finished well inside the London qualification mark of 45.50s.
Anas, soft-spoken and of a shy demeanor, measures every word he speaks. The Navy man prefers to answer in monosyllables. His one-word assessment of Monday’s performance: “good” “Breaking the national record or qualifying for London was not the aim. I just wanted to better my timings ,” he explains in a mix of Malayalam and English.
Anas’ record-shattering performance came in tough conditions. Temperatures above 40 degrees and a worn-out track did little to hinder him from hitting his personal best. But Anas has accustomed himself to prosper in adversity. There were no proper grounds, let alone tracks, for Anas to train at in his hometown of Nilamel in Kollam district.
Anas was spotted by local coach and former 400m runner Ansar, who trained him at a local college’s premises. But before Ansar could start moulding his ward, he had to melt him. He had to convince young Anas to give up jump events, his first love, and focus on running. Anas obliged and after quitting the jumps, he has taken a giant leap.
Under Ansar, the Nilamel native started clocking under 50s and the next wise step was to get enrolled in the Kerala State association’s academy, headed by PB Jaikumar. Before joining the national camp prior to this season’s commitments, Anas had been training under Jaikumar. “I have put in a lot of effort and a poor performance here would have really disappointed me,” says Anas.
The World Championship is not his first major event. HIs Poland effort had made him the third Indian to qualify for the 400m in the Olympics after Milkha SIngh and KM Binu. But in Rio, Anas’ performance was far from good. He finished sixth in the heats and did not advance. “It was a big competition and I could not calm my nerves. I will do better in London,” he says.
Moments after finishing the race on Monday, Anas rushed to his kit bag and pulled out his phone. He called his mother and broke the news of his qualification. Her mother keenly follows the careers of Anas and her younger son Anees ( a long jumper). After the London event, too, her phone will ring. Hopefully, to be followed by some good news.
Federation Cup in Patiala
The Federation Cup, slated to start on June 1, has been moved from Delhi to Patiala after FIFA denied the Athletics Federation of India permission to hold throwing events on the turf. AFI officials made the decision public on Monday. It has been learnt that when AFI initially sought permission to use the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium’s football ground for the throwing events, the world football body had no objection. But they later changed their minds. The JLN stadium is one of the venues for the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup.