Amoj Jacob, one of the runners in the men’s 4x400m relay quartet that came close to shattering the USA’s aura of invincibility at the World Athletics Championships recently, said on Tuesday he was confident India would win the Asian Games gold, and would also aim for an Olympic podium finish if it qualifies.
The 4x400m relay team smashed the Asian record in a stunning race, clocking 2 minute 59.05 seconds in the heat to qualify for its maiden final round of the Worlds in Budapest last week.
The quartet of Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal Variyathodi and Rajesh Ramesh finished second behind USA to make it to the final of the event before it finished fifth among eight teams in the showdown.
Jacob, the second runner in the quartet, said that after shattering the Asian record of 2:59.51, “barring unforseen circumstances, we will win the Hangzhou Asian Games gold, and will also aim for a podium finish at the Olympic next year (if we qualify)“.
Amoj added that the experience at the World Championships was a “huge morale booster ahead of the Asian Games as we have finished fifth in the Worlds”.
“We will have less pressure in Hangzhou (Asian Games), and our effort will be to further improve the Asian record we set at the Worlds,” said Jacob on the sidelines of a function to celebrate the National Sports Day at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29, the birth anniversary of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand.
Asked what was going through his mind during the heat just before he took the baton from Anas, the runner said, “The focus is on the baton... that it should not fall, come what may, and my mind was occupied only by that thought. The job of the second runner is to get the team in a good position, so I just took the baton and ran as fast as I could.”
A controversy had erupted after American Justin Robinson appeared to jostle with Rajesh on the back straight of the anchor leg. “You do lose momentum (following such an incident). It’s very difficult to catch up, no matter how hard you try,” said Amoj, adding, “had it (the jostle) not happened, who knows we would have won the heat.” y
Anas, a member of the gold-winning 4x400m mixed relay team at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, said, the fact that the players had been training together at Thiruvananthapuram since November last year had played a key role in the quartet’s performance at the Worlds.
“We had been running poorly this last one year, clocking somewhere around 3 minutes, seven seconds. We had three athletes injured... Amoj, Rajesh and me also injured. But before the Worlds, all three of us were injury-free, which gave us the confidence to give it our best shot. It (Worlds) was an experience in itself,” said Anas.
“I feel if we can handle the pressure in the Worlds, we are good to take that kind of pressure in the Olympics (if the team qualifies). We are eagerly awaiting the World Relays next year (in Nassau, May 4-5). If we do well there, we have a good chance of qualifying for the Olympics,” he said.
“I hope we four run at the Asian Games also, but the final decision is in the hands of the coach. The coach has expressed confidence in us, but let’s see,” added Anas.
During the function, Sports Minister Anurag Thakur complimented Indian athletes, lauding their recent performances at the global level.
“This is an unbelievable phase for Indian sports. In 60 years, there were only 18 medals at the World University Games (in Chengdu, China). This year itself, we won 26 medals in the tournament,” said Thakur.
“Not only that, across all sports, be it R. Praggnanandhaa in chess to Antim Panghal in wrestling and Aditi Gopichand Swami in archery, we are getting phenomenal results.”
On the occasion, the National Sports Federations (NSF) portal was also launched for ensuring ease of business and good governance”.
It is a unified online portal which will become a single window for processing annual renewals and elections in national sports federations.
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