A change in technique led to woman shot putter Abha Khatua equalling the national record and crossing the 18m mark twice in less than three months, but that was not enough to secure a ticket to the Asian Games.
She is now disappointed at the prospect of missing out on the upcoming Games in Hangzhou, China.
The National Inter-State Championships held in mid-June in Bhubaneswar was the final selection event for the Asian Games and Khatua could throw only 16.39m for a third-place finish there.
The top two finishers -- Kiran Baliyan (17.17m) and Manpreet Kaur (16.61m) -- were named in the 65-member Asian Games team for athletics issued last month by the sports ministry.
A country can name only two athletes per event and the AFI officials had earlier said that the top two finishers in the National Inter-State Championships will be considered for the Asian Games if they breach the qualifying mark (16.30m for women’s shot put).
The 28-year-old Khatua later threw 18.06m to equal Manpreet Kaur’s national record while winning a silver medal in the Asian Championships in Thailand in July and then won the shot put event at the Indian Grand Prix 5 with an effort of 18.02m here on Sunday.
“I am a bit sad but we can’t go against rules. The last date (for submission of names of athletes for Asian Games) was July 15 and my event at the Asian Championships was on July 16. That is why, I am not in Asian Games squad,” she told PTI in an interview.
“It’s all right; at times these kind of things can happen and for the better.” Born to a farmer father at Khurshi village near Narayangarh town in West Bengal’s West Midnapur district, Khatua tried out many athletics events before settling for shot put four years ago.
“I am from a poor family. We have no land and my father does farming at other people’s land. My mother helps him out in farming activities in my village.
“I started athletics from 7th class. Initially, I did 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump, and javelin. I started heptathlon in 2017-18 but I was not good at high jump (one of the seven events in heptathlon), so I left it.
“I shifted to shot put at the end of 2018 and I joined the national camp at Patiala in 2019,” she said.
The last few years have been a struggle for her but she is hoping to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“The year 2021 was bad for me. I had COVID-19, chikungunya, and high uric acid. Then I had an injury to my right elbow (earlier this year) and so I could not do proper weight training. So, I could not do well in the National Inter-State.
“The new rotation technique I learnt in the last one year took time to give results.
“It (new technique) is 80 per cent set and 20 per cent remaining. I have to make plan for the Olympics next year. I have speed (in my throw) and that is useful in rotation technique. I now know I can do better.
“I have the National Games (in Goa in October) and National Open Championships. It will be good if I qualify for the Olympics this year, otherwise, I will try next year.”
Asked how she changed to the rotation from gliding technique, she said, “All the top shot putters in the world are having the rotation technique, and coaches in the national camp told me to change from my earlier glide technique. I have the hunger to learn new things, and that is why I changed my technique.”
The Olympic qualifying standard is 18.80m, which no Indian woman has ever been able to reach. The qualifying window is from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.
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