Meet Amiya Mallick, India's fastest man who is scared of speed

Despite not having financial backing or a sponsor, Amiya Mallick remains unfazed and wants to make it big, with his eyes set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Amiya Mallick at the Abhinav Bindra High Performance Centre at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.   -  Special Arrangement

India's fastest man is scared of speed – that's how Amiya Kumar Mallick describes himself. “I have the tag of the fastest man in India, but as strange as it may sound I'm not very fond of speed,” he says.

Amiya set the 100m national record of 10.26s at the Federation Cup in 2016, but a streak of nagging injuries held him back. US-based Nigerian coach Taiwo Ariyo took Amiya under his wing and the two began to train in Finland. The sprinter put in the hard yards, but a groin tear saw him slip off the radar.

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Until 2019, that is. The 27-year-old announced his return to the track at the National Open in Ranchi by clocking 10.46 to win gold. And that medal was accompanied by “high-class drama,” he says.

“I had finished second in the semifinals, but when the results came out I was declared fifth. I was disappointed and went to the stands to watch the final, which was to take place in an hour. It was then that I casually saw the replays and realised that I had actually finished second and that the photo-finish judge got the result wrong,” he says, a short while after a laborious gym session.

“I approached the judges and requested them to check the result once again. They realised the error and gave me a spot in the final, but the event was set to begin in 15 minutes and I hadn't even warmed up! I ran towards the starting line and raced through my stretches, with hardly five minutes left for the race. And as luck would have it, the stadium's lights went out and I had about 15 minutes to go through my paces,” he recalls.

“It was a tight, tight race. The photo-finish judge took 20 minutes to declare the result,” he adds, wiping his brow with his Manchester United jersey. He doesn't support the club, he just liked the shirt's design, he quickly points out before the reporter can ask him.

Amiya Mallik with coach Taiwo Ariyo.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

The victory has given him a new sense of belief and hope, especially at a time when he doesn't have a sound financial backing. He has been on the lookout for a sponsor for the better part of a year, but to no avail.

However, he remains unfazed and wants to make it big – he's got his eyes on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I want to at least break the national record this year and I'm optimistic about my chances for the Olympics. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!”

Amiya, who trained under Usain Bolt's coach Glen Mills in 2014, can directly qualify for the Tokyo Olympics by beating the cut-off set at 10.05s, or he can go through as one of the 56 fastest runners in the world. “The 56th fastest runner is clocking around 10.17-18s. If I can get there or below, then I could seal my berth. But nothing like it if I can get below 10.5s,” he says.

Working towards a “fully loaded” body, he will begin his quest for an Olympic ticket in March. “I'm into heavy training now – I just finished 12 sets of half squats and full squats with six repetitions each. (For the uninitiated, that is a gruelling training session)

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“So the plan is to go with a fully loaded body and test it during the initial few events in March and accordingly make changes to achieve peak performance.”

He adds: “The Olympic qualification will end in late June and we have identified quite a few events abroad where I can compete with faster runners.”

With people keen on writing him off, Amiya has a point to prove and set the record straight. A ticket to the Olympics would do just that.