As Cuban Anier Garcia shouts loudly, forcing his athletes to push harder during their sprint repetitions at the Birsa Munda Stadium in Ranchi on a burning Sunday morning, Priya Mohan appears strong and determined.
Two years ago, she was the country’s fastest quartermiler and a junior World Championship relay medallist. But a lot has changed in her life now.
She parted ways with her long-time coach Arjun Ajay two months ago in Bengaluru and is now training at the JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sport at Ballari under Garcia, the 2000 Olympic 110m hurdles champion.
The new life is not easy but this is a new Priya.
“My new coach has an aggressive approach, he makes us work hard but then there’s enough rest during practice which works out well,” said Priya in a chat with Sportstar on Sunday.
“He’s an Olympic champion, that motivates us a lot too.”
A hamstring injury saw her skip the last few competitions but Priya is keen to clock a personal best time in the Federation Cup which begins on Monday.
“This will be a new start for me and I’m looking at a ‘greater’ timing in the Inter-State Nationals (in Bhubaneswar, June). I want to give the World Championships qualification time (51s) a shot,” said the 20-year-old (PB 52.37s).
Rezoana Mallick Heena, the 16-year-old who is coached by her former coach Ajay, is now the country’s fastest woman and the No. 2 Asian this year (52.98s) that came with the under-18 Asian gold in Tashkent recently.
But the women’s quartermile is also a strange world.
Rupal Chaudhary, the under-20 junior World bronze medallist in Colombia last year with a stunning 51.85s, is yet to compete in a national meet this season.
“Rupal said she had an ACL tear in January and still has some pain and that is why she is skipping the Federation Cup,” said an athlete who was her teammate at last year’s Junior Worlds.
But P.K. Srivastava, the UP Athletics Association secretary, said that Rupal had run in the UP State championships a week ago.
And Himanshi Malik, whose National varsities 400m gold-winning time of 52.99s in Chennai in March would have made her the third fastest Asian this year, is yet to compete in any of the Athletics Federation of India’s competitions this season (the AFI does not recognise varsities National performances as there is no dope-testing there).
“Her practical exams are on now. She will take part in inter-State meet,” said Ramesh Sindhu, her coach.
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