Poovamma: 'We are used to gold, anything less would have been a failure'

M.R. Poovamma says the current Indian women’s 4 x 400 metres relay team has the potential to break the national record and do well in the Asian Championships and the World Championships.

Sarita Gayakwad, Poovamma Raju, Hima Das and Vismaya celebrate after winning the gold medal in the women's 4x400m relay event at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta.   -  PTI

In the Asian Games, the Indian women’s 4 x 400 metres relay team is like the American team in the Olympics. The gold is virtually taken for granted.

With only M.R. Poovamma as the experienced runner in the team, and Hima Das literally leading from the front, in the first leg, the Indian quartet managed to win its fifth successive gold in the Asian Games, with a touch of assurance.

Interacting with the media on return from Jakarta, the 28-year-old Poovamma, who was also part of the team that won the gold in the last edition in Incheon in 2014, said that the potential of the current team could take it beyond the Asian Games.

"Everyone ran a perfect race. The baton exchanges were flawless. It was a big challenge to beat Bahrain, but we did it. A medal is fine for any other event, but not for the women’s relay team. We are used to gold. Anything less would have been treated as a failure’’, said Poovamma, quite satisfied with the execution.

"Hima does not take pressure. She keeps it simple and has tremendous maturity for an 18-year-old. She says, Didi why take tension, Main Hoon Na!. She is world class and has the potential to improve a lot further." — M.R. Poovamma



The whole package was master minded by the 72-year-old coach of the team, Galina Burakhina, who sprang a surprise by putting the best runner Hima Das up front, and gave the responsibility of anchoring the race to first time international V.K. Vismaya, the 21-year-old who studies Master of Social Works at the Assumption College in Kottayam.

"Coach Galina had taken the national federation into confidence with her plan, and had its approval. We knew about the plan only on the morning of the race. Hima gave us a big lead. I improved on it and the other two runners had to be at their best, which they did, not thinking about the gold but focusing purely on the run," said Poovamma who was thrilled with the time of 3 minutes 28.72 seconds.

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This was some achievement, as Bahrain was anchored by the World Championship silver medallist, the 20-year-old Salma Naser, who won three other gold medals from the Asian Games including the 400 metres.

"I was so tense. I really ran hard in the last 50 metres, as I knew the capabilities of Salma Naser who has a personal best of 49.08 seconds for the 400 metres. It was joy when I crossed the line’’, recalled Vismaya, whose 52.2 clinched it for the team, thanks to the handy lead in advance, sustained by Saritaben Gayakwad in the third leg.

‘’My first international medal is gold, and it has given me the confidence that I can deliver the responsibility,’’ said Vismaya who had secured 90 % in B.Sc maths but opted to change stream for her Masters degree to stay committed to athletics.
 

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Interestingly, Vismaya was staying in Jakarta with the coach who made the girl focus on the job and not worry about anything else.

"We all share a good rapport and the coach is great. She makes training very interesting. She always brings new elements to training and breaks the monotony of hard work in a predictable pattern.

Quite delighted to have extended her career thus far, and looking at the potential of reaching up to 3:23 with the current bunch in the relay, Poovamma said that she felt more energised owing to the positive atmosphere and the best ever support in terms of facilities and international exposure.

"This team has the potential to break the national record and do well in the Asian Championships and the World Championships, before we think about the Olympics’’, Poovamma said.

She was particularly pleased with the energy and positive attitude of Hima Das, the world under-20 champion in 400 metres, who gets along well with her.

"Hima does not take pressure. She keeps it simple and has tremendous maturity for an 18-year-old. She says, Didi why take tension, Main Hoon Na!. She is world class and has the potential to improve a lot further,’’ remarked Poovamma.