The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) will field 4x400m relay teams in both men and women’s categories in the third edition of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays in Bahamas from April 22.
The two-day competition assumes significance as the top eight finishers in 4x100m and 4x400m in both men and women’s sections will earn automatic berth for the World Athletics Championship in London.
Besides regular 4x400m and 4x100m relay events, the programme will also feature 4x200m and 4x800m relays in both categories.
India, however, will only compete in the 4x400m event.
The core group of athletes is training at Patiala’s National Institute of Sports under Mohammed Kunhi, a national team coach.
The AFI, in its recent executive council meeting, had earmarked 400m and javelin throw as priority disciplines. While India have junior world champion Neeraj Chopra in javelin, but there is no big name in the 400m event.
Despite getting extensive exposure and foreign experts, the 400m core group wasn’t able to impress in the Rio Olympics. The women’s team finished seventh in the first round, and was ranked 13th overall in the 16-team competition while the men’s team was disqualified in the first round for wrong baton exchange during the anchor leg.
The axe for the poor show in Rio fell on Ukrainian foreign coach Yuri Ogorodnik, whose contract wasn’t renewed by the sports ministry.
India have a good track record at the continental level, but are yet to make a mark at the global level. Their best performance came in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games where they entered the final and finished seventh.
Although the national women’s team has been dominating the Asian Games, even setting the Games record of 3:28.68 secs in 2014 at Incheon, South Korea, their preparation for the 2018 Asian Games has been hampered as the AFI is yet to appoint a foreign coach.
The federation also plans to conduct a domestic competition in both javelin and 400m. During the domestic meet, the top six will be selected for World Relays. Deadline to send entry expires on April 10.