Nirmala qualifies for Rio Olympics in women's 400

The 22-year-old Nirmala, coached by Vijender Singh for the last six years, had not actually competed in any major event for the last few months fully focussing on the event with the specific intention of qualifying for this August's Olympics in Rio.

Nirmala in action at the Senior National inter-state athletics meet.   -  NAGARA GOPAL

Nirmala Sheoran of Haryana has become the first athlete from the on-going Senior National inter-state athletics meet to achieve the Rio Olympics qualifying mark when she clocked 51.48 in the women’s 400 m to make the cut, much to the delight of the sparse crowd at the GMC Balayogi Stadium here on Friday.

The 22-year-old Nirmala, coached by Vijender Singh for the last six years, had not actually competed in any major event for the last few months fully focussing on the event with the specific intention of qualifying for this August's Olympics in Rio. The Olympics qualifying mark in the women’s 400 m is 52.20.

A delighted Nirmala later said that she was really confident of making it especially after her performance in the heats when she clocked 52.35.

Born into a farmer’s family of seven, Nirmala seemed to have been inspired by the presence of the legendary P.T. Usha in the VIP gallery, who came today for the meet.

The legendary athlete was impressed by Nirmala’s race. “She really wan well. The start was perfect and she was clearly leading right through. It was a terrific show and I am delighted that one more Indian athlete made it to the Olympics,” she remarked.

Nirmala’s proud coach Vijender Singh says that the girl from Bhiwani was really determined to make the cut for the Olympics here. “This is the result of two years of real hard work and training,” he exclaimed even as Nirmala’s equally jubilant father Suresh Kumar was seen appreciating his daughter.

Nirmala works as a clerk in the Panchayat Department of Haryana and was introduced to athletics in 2008 after a brief unsuccessful stint in javelin.

In the men’s discus, Kirpal Singh of Punjab set a new meet record with an effort of 59.74 m, eclipsing the previous record of Anil Kumar of Haryana (59.70) in July 2000.

More chances for Indians

Meanwhile, C.K. Valson, secretary general of Atheltics Federation of India, informed media on the sidelines that the Indian athletes will have one more chance to qualify for the Rio Games as the AFI has decided to host the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru on July 10 and 11 (July 12 is the deadline for the athletes to meet the qualifying mark for Rio).

Mr. Valson also announced that Dharambir Singh (200m), triple jumper Renjith Maheswary and shotputter Om Prakash will be representing India in the Thailand Open on July 4 and 5 to give them another chance for qualifying.

The AFI official also said that Jinson Johnson (800 m) and Naveen Kumar (steeplechase) will compete in the Belgium athletics meet on July 9.

And in the on-going Nationals, AFI will be fielding three teams A, B C with the A team comprising M.R. Poovamma, Anilda, Jisna Mathew and Tintu Luka will compete along with the Sri Lankans in the 4 x 400 m relay competition here tomorrow.

The result: Women: 400 m: 1. Nirmala (Har) 51.48, 2. Jisna Mathew (Ker) 53.14, 3. P.N. Sowndharya (TN) 53.85.

Men: 400 m: 1. Pankaj Malik (Chandigarh) 47.40, 2. Noah Nirmal Tom (Ker) 47.47, 3. Nagaraj Kubudha (Kar) 47.67.

Discus: 1. Kirpal Singh (Pjb) 59.74 m, 2. Baljinder Singh (Pjb) 54.08 m, 2. Dharam Raj Yadav (UP) 53.64 m.

High jump: 1. Ajay Kumar (Har) 2.17 m, 2. Ritesh Kumar (UP) 2.17, 3. Jagdeep Singh (Pjb) 2.17 m (placings as per the less number of fouls committed by the athletes).

Long jump: 1. Yugant Shekhar (UP) 7.74 m, 2. Muhammaed Anne (Guj) 7.64 m, 3. S.E. Shamsheer (Kar) 7.49 m.

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