A keen contest will be on the cards between athletes from Kerala and the core group of women 400m runners at the Federation Cup. The three-day Rio qualification event starts at the Nehru Stadium from Thursday.
The quarter-mile has generated more interest as the core group has been training under controversial coach Yuri Ogorodnik in Turkey since November. The athletes from the Ukrainian’s stable also have the services of a recovery expert whose monthly salary is over $8000 (Rs 5.4 lakh approx).
The runners from Kerala have polished their skills at Thiruvananthapuram under home-bred coach PB Jaikumar.
At Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix, the Kerala athletes had stamped their supremacy with Anilda Thomas bagging the top slot, while Anu Raghavan was third. Ogorodnik’s trainees, including MR Poovama, were unimpressive.
Earlier, Anu and Anilda had been ticked off by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) as they had refused to train under Ogorodnik due to his past. Anu was denied a place in the national team for the South Asian Federation Games, and was replaced by Ashwini Akkunji.
The two are determined to showcase their talent by meeting the individual qualification mark of 52.20 secs. Anu is ready for the challenge. Her coach said, “The athletes don’t want to miss the opportunity. The sooner they qualify for Rio the better.”
Besides Anu and Anilda, Asian Games medallist Tintu Luka and rising star Jisna Mathew are the other two Kerala athletes in the fray for a Rio berth. Tintu has achieved the Rio berth in 800m event.
The top quarter-milers in the national camp, including Poovama and Ashwini, had failed to impress on Sunday with Poovama’s manual time being 53.05 secs. The other five in the national camp are Priyanka Panwar, Anju Thomas, Sini Jose, Debashree Majumdar and Jauna Murmu.
National coach RS Sidhu blamed the poor show to injuries. “Priyanka is nursing an ankle injury while Ashwini is also unfit,” he said.
But Ogonordik wasn’t worried about the slow progress. He said four runners would breach the 52-second mark in two months. “The remaining three will race below 54 seconds,” was his prediction.
Focus on relay
AFI’s focus is on the women’s 4x400m relay team. The top 16 nations will get a Rio berth, whereas the top eight in the world relays at Bahamas 2015 have already gotten a Rio berth. India didn’t compete at Bahamas, however.
The national team has to clock two fastest timings between the qualification period of January 1, 2015 to July 11, 2016
Rankings will be announced by the world governing body by July 12.