The absence of the seasoned M.R. Poovamma, who won the 400m gold in five of the six meets this year, and the inclusion of Tamil Nadu's S. Dhanalakshmi in the 4x400m mixed relay squad were the big surprises in the 26-member Indian athletics team for this month's Tokyo Olympics which was announced on Monday.
Poovamma, the 400m silver medallist with 53.54s at last week's inter-State Nationals, was assured of a berth in the mixed 4x400m relay but surprisingly, the Karnataka athlete left the national camp and went back home.
“[Her] back is bad,” Adille Sumariwalla, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president, told Sportstar about the Poovamma issue.
Meanwhile Dhanalakshmi, the inter-State National and Federation Cup 100m champion who had been hoping to go to the Olympics through the women's 4x100m relay, got a surprise Tokyo ticket in the 4x400m mixed relay after finishing third in the 400m trials in Patiala on Sunday.
Kerala's V.K. Vismaya and Jisna Mathew, who were coming back from injuries, are the big names missing from the squad. The two had helped India qualify for the Olympics by finishing seventh in the mixed event at the 2019 Doha World championships but were in mediocre form this year.
“We are happy that it is a well prepared team, physically and emotionally, for the Olympic Games. The world has been through a lot and athletes have been challenged to stay in good shape, retain form and in good spirits,” said Sumariwalla.
“We are pleased that our athletes have remained in training ever since lockdown was lifted,” he said.
He said it was significant that as many as 12 individual athletes and the 4x400m mixed relay team had attained the entry standards, laid down by World Athletics, to secure automatic berths.
Dutee Chand (women’s 100m and 200m), M.P. Jabir (men’s 400m hurdles), Gurpreet Singh (men’s 50km race walk) and Annu Rani (women’s javelin throw) were assured of entries on the strength of their Road to Tokyo rankings.
Athletics in Tokyo begins on July 31.
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