Wednesday, 6 July, 2022
HomeSportIn Hima-Dutee euphoria, we're forgetting India's fastest rising sprinter: Mohd Anas Yahiya

In Hima-Dutee euphoria, we’re forgetting India’s fastest rising sprinter: Mohd Anas Yahiya

Anas has qualified for September’s World Championships, but even he, like Hima Das & Dutee Chand, is some way from qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

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New Delhi: Hima Das’ five gold medals have put her in the national spotlight. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, everyone is congratulating her.

Meanwhile, with her gold-winning 100m run at the Summer University Games in Napoli, Dutee Chand has added more accolades to an already long list.

These congratulatory voices, though no doubt well-meaning and justifiably earned, however, also denote a certain lack of understanding of athletics. What also appears to have been forgotten is Muhammed Anas Yahiya’s qualification for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

At the Kladno athletics meet in the Czech Republic on 13 July, Anas clocked a time of 45.21s in the 400m. The qualification criteria for this event at the World Championships was set at 45.30s, with the qualifying window for most events being 7 September 2018 to 6 September 2019. Both Das and Chand are yet to qualify.

But despite the achievements of all three athletes, they’ve still got miles to go before they can become the best in Asia, let alone be contenders for world and Olympic medals. Athletics, especially the track events, are more about timings than medals, and all three trail their peers by a fair distance.

Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

How they stack up 

Anas’ best time this year has been 45.21 seconds, which is a national record. But it only fetches him the 35th position globally. The list counts only the best seasonal performance of every athlete, so, in 2019, there have been 34 men who have managed a better time than the Indian sprinter.

Das, in her pet 400m, and Chand, in the 100m, are further behind. Das’ gold-winning performance of 52.09 seconds in the Czech Republic on 20 July, her season best, has been bettered by 74 different women this year.

Navy sailor Anas’ performances have consistently shown an upward trend. In 2016, he broke the national record in the men’s 400m by clocking 45.40s, qualifying for the Rio Olympics. He became just the third Indian male athlete after Milkha Singh and K.M. Binu to qualify for the Olympic 400m.

Also read: This is how India’s 2018 Asian Games mixed relay silver turned into gold

Then, in 2017, he bettered his record with 45.32s. The next year, he became only the second Indian after Milkha Singh to qualify for the 400m finals at the Commonwealth Games. He finished fourth and missed out on a historic bronze, but again broke his own record with 45.31s. He then cut the time down to 45.24s a few months later, before setting 45.21 this year.

Das sustained an injury in April 2019, and hasn’t returned to peak form yet — her current world ranking of 57 is also considerably below her all-time best of 18.

Of the five gold medals she recently won, four came in the 200m and only one in her preferred 400m event. Further, three of these (including the 400m gold) events are categorised as E and two as F — in the IAAF hierarchy, these are the two lowest-rated categories. The contribution they make to a player’s ranking, even with a gold medal, is limited.

Meanwhile, Chand’s 2019 best of 11.26 seconds in the Asian Championship semifinals in April has been outperformed by 73 athletes. She set a personal best of 11.24s at Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2016, but the Athletics Federation of India refused to ratify it as a national record since the dope testing laboratory in Almaty wasn’t WADA-accredited. She did qualify for the Rio Olympics, but exited in the first round.

At the Asian Championships this year, she first ran 11.28s and then 11.26, breaking her own national record of 11.29s established in 2018. But in the finals, she ran 11.44s, finishing fifth.

Olympics a distant dream

The Olympics are the cutting edge of sport, and while the Indian athletes’ performances so far are a step in the right direction, they aren’t yet good enough to make a mark at the quadrennial mega event.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has introduced a dual-qualification system for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Athletes can either qualify by setting a better time than the entry standard, or through their world rankings. The IAAF intends to fill the allotted quota through both systems in approximately equal measure. The qualification window for the Olympics is between 1 May 2019 to 29 June 2020.

Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

The entry standard for the men’s 400m and women’s 100m respectively are 44.90s and 11.15s — better than Anas’ all-time best of 45.21s and Chand’s 11.24s.

Das’ best ever performance in the women’s 400m is 50.79s, which is better than the qualification standard of 51.35s. In fact, in 2018, she crossed this mark four times. However, this year, she has struggled to reach the mark.

The total number of quota spots available in the men’s and women’s 400m are 48 each, while in the women’s 100m, 56 spots are up for grabs. Anas, Das and Chand’s world ranks in their respective events are 31, 57 and 34, which means their paths to the Olympics won’t be easy.

The excessive euphoria around Das and Chand’s accomplishments could actually be counterproductive, as it would put unnecessary additional pressure on them.

It is pertinent to mention that India’s best hope for a track-and-field medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is actually javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who is currently recovering from an injury. Chopra is ranked 10th at the moment, but had reached a peak ranking of 4, which would make put him among the favourites for a medal.

Also read: Tokyo Olympics 2020 will either make or break Neeraj Chopra’s javelin-throwing career


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