Confident Anilda looks to make the cut in 400m

She clocked 53.0s (hand-timed) to win the women’s 400m gold in the Indian Grand Prix, the athletics season opener, in New Delhi on Sunday.

The 25-year-old, who has a personal best of 52.62s, has set herself new goals and this being the Olympic year, she wants to run in Rio.   -  PTI

Late last year, quartermiler Anilda Thomas received a series of emails from the Athletics Federation of India and the national coach threatening her. They said that if she did not report at the National camp, she would not be allowed to compete in national and international meets.

The Kerala athlete, the National Games champion, had been the country’s fastest 400m runner for a good part of last season but with Ukrainian Yuri Ogorodnik returning as the coach of the women’s 4x400m relay runners, she was not keen on joining the camp.

Ogorodnik was the coach of the relay team when the country’s biggest doping scandal broke out in 2011 – six relay runners were suspended for two years then after they failed dope tests – and with Yuri Ogorodnik returning to the country last year, Anilda had a good reason to be worried about going to the national camp.

Despite the threat, she did not attend the national camp and instead trained under Kerala Sports Council coach P.B. Jaikumar in Thiruvananthapuram.

GREAT START TO THE SEASON

Anilda is now brimming from ear to ear. And for good reason too for she won the women’s 400m gold in the Indian Grand Prix, the athletics season opener, in New Delhi on Sunday. And the fact that all the national campers, including Asian Championship silver medallist M.R. Poovamma, finished behind her, makes one believe that she did the right thing by not going to the camp.

It’s a fact that season-openers rarely offer a proper peep into the year but still Anilda’s achievement, in a hand-timed 53.0s, was significant. The 25-year-old, who has a personal best of 52.62s, has set herself new goals and this being the Olympic year, she wants to run in Rio.

“I came to Delhi with something like 51.9s in mind in the hope of qualifying for the Olympics’ in the individual 400m but the conditions were really bad at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium last evening,” Anilda told The Hindu over phone on Monday.

“It was dry and dusty at the ground and after the first curve, we couldn’t breathe properly. All of us have severe cold now. The stadium was not clean at all, lot of dust and waste, nothing was good for us.”

HOPES TO MAKE CUT IN FED CUP

The qualification standard for the women’s 400m for the Rio Olympics is 52.20s and Anilda is confident of making the cut in the Federation Cup, which begins at the same Delhi venue on Thursday, or in the meets after that. That is, if the conditions are good. “I’m in much better form than last year and in the qualification range.”

IMPROVED START

Anilda’s start has improved a lot and that, she says, is the reason for her good timings so early in the season. “My start used to be slow, I had focused a lot on it in the last few months and it has improved,” she said.

Her performance has also moved athletics officials to persuade her to join the national camp once again. “Radhakrishnan sir (the deputy national coach) had asked me to rejoin the national camp, they are planning to send us for two or three foreign meets. So, I may go after the Federation Cup,” she revealed.

CRUCIAL DAYS

With the qualification doors closing on July 11, Anilda is aware that foreign exposure over the next couple of months would be crucial. “Since we are looking at qualifying for the Olympics in the women’s 4x400m relay, I’m sure they will want to include runners who are doing well,” she said.

“I think we are now in the 18th spot in the Rio rankings, the top 16 qualify (and this includes the top eight finishers in the 2015 IAAF World Relays held in Bahamas), so we have a good chance of making it. But my first priority is to qualify in the individual 400m.”

For sure, this is a very confident girl speaking.