Anjali targets Tokyo time but coach predicts better outcomes

Anjali Devi produced a 51.53s stunner at the Inter-State Nationals this year that made her India's fastest 400m runner.

Anjali Devi, the country's fastest quartermiler this year, with her coach Rohtas Siwach.

Anjali Devi, the country's fastest quartermiler this year, with her coach Rohtas Siwach.   -  Special Arrangement

If the four-year ban imposed recently on former Asian champion quartermiler Nirmala Sheoran, by the Athletics Integrity Unit, has rattled athletes at the 59 National Open here, they are not showing it.

But it has forced some like Haryana's 400m runner Anjali Devi, whose sudden and stunning fluctuations in timings after leaving the national camp have raised many eyebrows, to try out new strategies with next year's Tokyo Olympics in mind.

Finishing last in her semifinal with 56.40s, Anjali had failed to qualify for the Federation Cup final in Patiala in March. She had also quit the national camp around that time but five months later, she produced a 51.53s stunner at the Inter-State Nationals that not only made her the country's fastest 400m runner this year but also helped her qualify for the recent Doha Worlds.

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During this period, there were reports that Anjali had done the vanishing act on a couple of occasions when the NADA officials had landed to dope-test her.

Since she had left the national camp, the Athletics Federation of India allowed the 21-year-old to only run the individual 400m at the Worlds (she finished sixth in her heats in 52.33s) and not the relays, women's and mixed, though she held the No. 1 spot.

India has now qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the mixed relay, after entering the final at the Worlds, and Anjali has changed her stand.

“Yes, I will be joining the national camp when it starts next and I will be there full time,” the quartermiler who was adjudged as the Inter-State Nationals' best athlete, told Sportstar. Anjali is also hopeful of making the entry standard (51.35s) for the Olympics but her coach Rohtas Siwach has predicted bigger things.

“I expect Anjali to clock something like 50.02s in a National championship next year before the Olympics...yes, 50.02,” he repeated, just in case one didn't hear it clearly.

That would mean breaking Hima Das' 400m national record of 50.79s that came with a silver as she finished behind Bahrain's current World champion Salwa Eid Naser at last year's Jakarta Asian Games. And now it looks like there are more of them coming from Haryana.

“Kiran, who is also progressing very well, is also my trainee,” said Rohtas about the new 19-year-old from Rohtak who topped one of the two 400m semifinals this evening, beating Anjali in the process.

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With the 21-year-old Kavita also qualifying, Haryana had taken three of the eight berths in the final.

“Our plan is that all our athletes should be in the national camp. Nirmala's mistakes have spoiled everything for her, but our athletes will only follow my workouts because they help them better their performance. That will be the case even in national camps.”

It will be interesting to see what's powering these girls as they try to get on to the road to Tokyo.