Heena, India’s rising 400m star, wants to build on U-18 Asian record
The 16-year-old Rezoana Mallick Heena, from West Bengal, broke the continental record clocking 52.98 secs at the Asian meet held last week in Tashkent
'Trust the process and believe in yourself' reads the Whatsapp bio of young sprinter Rezoana Mallick Heena. As far as progress is concerned, the 16-year-old from West Bengal's Nadia district has put herself on the fast track.
Heena made a sensational debut at the National Open in 400m, clocking 53.22s to set the U-16 national record. She has now bettered the Asian U-18 record (52.98s), winning gold in Tashkent last week by improving upon the previous best set by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser (53.02s) -- the 2019 world champion.
“It was my first international meet and I enjoyed a lot with the team,” said Heena, who returned home on Tuesday. She has been training under coach Arjun Ajay in the altitude of Ooty since November 2019 and has taken big strides this season.
“Sir (coach) told me I could break the national record and even the championship record was possible, so to just focus and believe. My mindset was to do well. I was a bit nervous but then I just ran my race, leading from the start. It has given me a lot of confidence, but I am not looking too far ahead. I do not want to be overconfident. I have to do better,” she says.
Ajay says it is important to ensure her progress is smooth. “I am focusing on her growth. I don't want to push her at this point and that is why I am not loading her. I am very careful with her workouts even when it comes to running with spikes. She practised with spikes just for a few days before the event.
"She has a lot of potential. She is tall, has good strides and she has a lot of fire in her.”
Though she has an India leading time (400m) this season, Ajay is yet to take a call on whether to aim for Asian Games, to be held in Huangzhou in September.
“I will have to speak to AFI and discuss. Of course, I am preparing her for the Asian junior championships this year and the focus will be World Junior Championships next year. But she has given good timing and we will see whether she can compete in the Inter-state for Asian Games selection,” says Ajay, who has also trained Priya Mohan, the two-time world junior mixed relay medallist.
Heena, who also won the 200m silver and the gold in team medley (run over 100m, 200m and 300m with the anchor running 400m) has grown up idolising multiple Olympic medallist Allyson Felix. Her parents are kabaddi players and her father introduced her to sprints when she was just five.
“I was very small when my father took me to the ground. He used to show me videos of Allyson Felix. Since then, I have wanted to be a 400m runner. She runs smoothly and I have tried to follow her style,” she says.