Srabani: 'I want to break the national record'

Having qualified for her first Olympics, 200m sprinter Srabani Nanda aims to break the national record of 22.82s and hopes to 'get my best possible time' in the upcoming Rio Olympics.

Srabani Nanda had clocked 23.07s in the 200m sprint category to qualify for Rio.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In 2008, when the Usain Bolt phenomenon hit the world, not only did it make many non-enthusiasts sit up and take note, it prompted a number of budding runners to seriously consider athletics as a career. His performances seemed way beyond the capability of the average human, but the man's charisma endeared him to many.

One such youngster inspired by him was Srabani Nanda, the 200m sprinter, now 25 and all set to travel to Rio for her first Olympic Games.

“There was an inter-state meet going on then.” Srabani said. “When the competition ended, we were watching highlights of Bolt. I didn’t have much craze for Olympics then. I didn’t even know how to go about the qualification. I used to compete in athletics but I hadn’t thought much. Only after watching Bolt, I started learning about everything.”

Srabani’s initial brush with the sport was during the children’s day meet that her father, a clerk at the collectorate, used to organise each year in Phulbani, Kandhamal district of Orissa; a tradition which Srabani said her father still continued.

Many a school and state-level meet later, and after watching Bolt, she was part of the 4x100m relay gold winning team in the Commonwealth Youth Games at Pune in 2008. Two years later came the 4x100m relay bronze at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Srabani's target year

Her career might seem to have hit a plateau since then, but Srabani insisted that 2016 was the year she was gunning for Olympic qualification. “Back then itself I had set 2016 in mind,” she said. “I have been practising intensely for the last two years. I have now achieved my target of qualifying. This is the first step. Now I want to break the national record which is 22.82s. My time is 23.07s (the one she clocked to qualify for Rio).”

Srabani making the cut for Rio last month followed closely on the heels of her more famous state-mate Dutee Chand meeting the Olympic standard in 100m. The two – separated by five years, Srabani being the older one – have chased each other in recent years with varying degrees of success. Yet the two couldn’t combine to send India through in the 4x100m relay; an event in which Srabani has had much success.

“Till the Federation Cup we didn’t even know if we could form a team,” said Srabani. “We ran well there. After that we tried but there wasn’t enough time. 4x100m is very technical. You need a lot of practice.”

“It’s a combined effort. Even if something goes wrong anywhere, the chances (of going to the Olympics) are off. So our primary target was the individual event. We said we will run relay, but along with the individual event. Still, whenever we tried relay we all gave 100 per cent.”

So what can we expect in Rio? “It’s a good feeling to be an Olympian,” she said. “But I want to be much more than that. Yet, I won’t say that I'll go with the expectation of a medal. It will be great if we can get an athletics medal. But I want to get my best possible time there.”

Will a meeting with Bolt cap her glorious year? “I already met him in Glasgow. Took a photo too! But I would like to meet him again. Definitely!”

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :