400m star Nirmala back to scorch track after 'secret' training

The 22-year-old Asian champion quarter-miler who disappeared late last year leaving NADA in a dilemma has been training in a secret location in Rajasthan.

Questions are raised about how Nirmala is able to make a smooth return to the circuit after the 22-year skipped numerous national meets. (File Photo)   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Where was she all these months? What was she doing? What sort of form is she in now?

These are the big questions surround star quarter-miler Nirmala Sheoran as she gets ready for the National Inter-State athletics championships, the Asian Games main qualification meet, which begins in Guwahati on Tuesday.

Despite being the 400m Asian champion and the star of the Asian gold-winning Indian mile relay team in 2017, it was shocking to hear late last year that the 22-year-old had disappeared without a trace leaving the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the Athletics Federation of India in a dilemma.

It has now emerged that Nirmala, hailing from Haryana was training at a secret base in Rajasthan.

“I spoke to her coach Vijender a few days ago. Nirmala had been training at a ‘hidden place’ at Ratangarh (Churu District) in Rajasthan,” Raj Kumar Mittan, the Secretary of the Haryana State Athletics Association, told Sportstar.

“She is now training at Bhiwani with Vijender, they came back last month. And Vijender told me that they had been going everywhere without any problem.”

Calls to coach Vijender, for further details, went unanswered. And what sort of form is Nirmala in now?

“She is in the 51-sec form (for the 400m), that is what Vijender told me,” said Raj Kumar.

That means Nirmala (personal best 51.28s), who has been skipping many national meets for the last couple of years -  only to pop up and produce stunning timings in final trials before the 2016 Olympics and last year’s Asians - is at it again. And she is in national record-breaking form (Record: Manjit Kaur’s 51.05 set in 2004) this time!

That should set the 400m on fire and with Assam’s 18-year-old Hima Das also in awesome form, clocking a personal best 51.32s at the recent Commonwealth Games, the quartermile will be ‘The Event’ to watch in Guwahati.

But questions are being raised in many quarters about how Nirmala is able to make a smooth return to the circuit.

“Everybody says that she was untraceable but if NADA officials were unable to get her for tests when she was in the Registered Testing Pool, aren’t there many options open to them? Did they use these options?” asked a prominent coach. “And how come she is out of the RTP now?”

Ankit Sharma, who stunningly broke the national record with his 8.19m long jump in Almaty two years ago, felt athletes who are doing well should be monitored closely.

“Nirmala is the best case but there are many others like that, they come for competitions and after that they are not to be seen again,” said Ankit, who is hoping to do an 8m jump in Guwahati.

“The NADA should test athletes doing above 7.50m in long jump and 16m in triple jump every month,” Ankit signed off.