India’s sprint sensations Hima Das and Dutee Chand are set to join forces and anchor the women’s 4x100m relay team, gearing up to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Hima Das came up with a brilliant performance in the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games winning a 400m silver. However, a persistent back injury has hampered Das from running 400m in major events. However, last season she won a couple of medals in low-key races in Europe.
India’s chief national coach, Radhakrishnan Nair has said that Hima will now be preparing for relay with Dutee and other members. “There is no (back) issue when she runs the 100m. Thus her talent will be put to use in the shorter relay,” he said. According to him, Hima who 2018 junior world 400m champion is capable of running 100m below 11.50 secs. Her personal best in 400m is 50.78 seconds.
While ace sprinter Dutee Chand’s personal best is 11.22 seconds, there are a dozen Indian sprinters running around11.50 seconds. “It is an advantage to achieve a top 16 global ranking by the end of June and become eligible to compete in the Olympics,” Nair said.
According to Dutee, the personal best of the top six in the national relay squad is between 11.50 seconds and 11.60 seconds.
‘We have a young and new team’ – Dutee Chand
“We have a young and new team. It’s good Hima is also there. Working as a team is what matters in a relay. All the sprinters are eager to perform and everyone is working hard towards the common goal of qualifying for the Olympics,” Dutee said from her training camp in Bhubhaneshwar.
“We have been doing well in the relay for the past couple of years, but the current lot is super good,” she said. “All we have to do is combine as a unit to clock a good time. Something below 43 secs will be good,” added the national record holder. Dutee won a silver in both 100m and 200m at Jakarta in 2018.
It has been two decades since India’s 4x100m team comprising Sarawati Dey, Rachita Mistry, Vinita Tripathi and V Jayalakshmi competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. However, no qualifying system was in place at the time. The mens team had also participated. Unfortunately, both the teams made a first round exit.
“An impressive performance by us this time will be a huge boost for sprinting in the country,” Dutee Chand feels. Due to the pandemic, World Athletics had frozen Olympic qualification till November 30. The relay team hopes to showcase its potential in the April 3-4 Asian Relay Championships in Thailand, followed by the World Relay in Poland in the first week of May.
“The team has the ability to clock below 43 secs; a top eight position in Poland could fetch us an automatic berth for the Tokyo Olympics,” Nair said.
Dutee Chand trains in Bhubhaneshwar
At the 2019 Asian Championships, the women’s 4X100 relay team comprising Archana Suseentran, Veeramani Revathi, Ranga Kunnath and Dutee missed out on a medal. They finished fourth after a poor baton exchange in the third leg. he Indian team clocked 43.81 secs. China won gold at 42.87 seconds, followed by Kazakhstan (43.36) and Bahrain (43.61). At the 2019 Doha World Championships, Jamaica won the gold in 41.44 secs, ahead of Great Britain (41.85) and United States (42.10).
According to Tarun Shah, former national sprint coach, a smooth baton change will be the key to success in the upcoming international meets. While Dutee trains in Bhubaneswar, others in sprint relay team- Archana, Himashree Roy, Sneha PJ, Daneswari, Diandra Valladares, Kaveri and Hima are based in Patiala.
“Coordination is important,” Shah said. “Three to four weeks of group training should be enough to get a good rhythm. “Consistent performance builds confidence and gives an opportunity to handle things in different environments,” he added. The womens team missed on the 2016 Rio qualification after ending one spot outside of the top 16 who are eligible.
Steady progress can help the sprint relay team to win a medal at the 2022 Asian Games. “The female quarter-milers (4x400m relay) have set a trend of winning gold medals since the 2002 Busan Asian Games—till date, India has won five titles,” Dutee’s coach N Ramesh said from Hyderabad.