Two months ago, M.P. Jabir was sitting on the 21st rung in the World Athletics' Road to Olympics rankings. The 24-year-old has not made the entry standard, just 19 have made the cut so far, but there are 40 berths available for Tokyo in the 400m hurdles and the 24-year-old hopes to get in through the rankings route.
But the two-time Asian bronze medallist has now fallen to 25 and is anxious. “There is fear that my Tokyo rankings could fall further. We can't say by how much it will go down at the last moment since there are a lot of competitions all over the world,” said Jabir, a semifinalist at the 2019 Doha Worlds, from the Patiala national camp.
Like Jabir, javelin thrower Annu Rani has dropped a few rungs to 19 while Asian Games champion shotputter Tajinderpal Singh Toor is on a very worrying 29 for the field events in Tokyo have just 32 slots.
Muhammed Anas, Asian Games silver medallist and 400m national record holder, has suddenly slipped from 40 to 45 in the quartermile but his main focus is the mile relays and India has already made the cut in one of them, the mixed event. World University Games champion Dutee Chand is 40th and 41st in the women's 100 and 200m. Both these sprints have 56 berths. And in the 4x400m relays which is have a 16-team field, Indian men are in 14th while the women are 15th.
The qualification doors close on June 29 and as athletes try to focus on their Olympic preparations even while worrying over whether they would drop out of the Tokyo rankings, there will be distractions aplenty. For this is also a look-around time to see what other countries and relay teams are doing to grab the last few slots.
- Nigeria could pose problems for India -
For instance Nigeria, which is behind India at No. 17 in the women's mile relay rankings, has now decided to host the African Championships in Lagos from June 23, after original host Algeria asked for a postponement, with an eye on some of these berths.
Incidentally Nigeria, which like India had missed the recent World Relays in Poland, had finished fifth in the women's 4x400m relay at the 2017 London World Championships and had lost its berth in the 2016 Olympics after one of its runners tested positive and her suspension period also covered the event where the country had posted the Rio qualification time.
- Foreign trips -
The Athletics Federation of India is now working on sending almost all the Olympic probables to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan next week for competitions.
“They are looking but we don't know what will happen. We didn't have any competition, so the fall (in Tokyo rankings) was expected. What we need now are competitions,” said Anas who ran the 100m or the 200m in the first three Indian Grand Prix legs and did the quartermile only in the Federation Cup in March.
Anas explained that he was not fully fit during the IGP period and is still not at his best. “I could not run the 400m final in the Federation Cup because of an injury. Even now, I have not come to the form when I did my 45.21s (National record, July 2019)...I'm probably 70 to 80 per cent of that,” he said.
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