Hyderabad: Indian quarter-miler Nirmala Sheoran made the cut for next month's Rio Olympics after clocking 51.48 secs in 400m at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics championships in Hyderabad on Friday.
Nirmala had revealed her Rio ambitions when she improved her previous best by a huge margin clocking 52.35 secs during yesterday's 400m heats at GMC Balayogi Stadium.
The Haryana quarter-miler ran the race of her life as she led right from start to finish and recorded a personal best of 51.48 secs, a time that puts her on the flight to Rio de Janeiro and erased the previous meet mark of 51.73 secs held by MR Poovamma since 2014.
Nirmala became the 24th track and field athlete from India to qualify for the Rio Olympics after she surpassed the Olympic qualification mark of 52.20 secs.
Friday's time put Nirmala fourth in the Indian all-time rankings behind Manjeet Kaur (51.04s, 2004), KM Beenamol (51.21s, 2000) and Chitra K Soman (51.30s, 2004).
PT Usha's trainee Jisna Mathew (53.14 secs) and Tamil Nadu's PN Souwndharya (53.85s) took the other medals of the day.
Reacting on Nirmala's time, Usha said: "the race was really good and it would be great if she maintained her performance in the upcoming meets as well."
Chandigarh boy Pankaj Malik romped home in the men's 400m gold in 47.40 secs.
Hurdler Jithin Paul from Kerala, who was expected to qualify in men's 400m hurdles on Friday could not make it.
Having clocked a personal best of 49.79 secs earlier this month in Samorin, Slovakia, the QM of 49.40 secs looked well within his reach. However Jithin was a bit slower in the initial stages of the final and clocked only 50.41 secs.
Durgesh Kumar Pal, the inaugural Youth Olympic Games silver medalist, gave a tough fight to Jithin till the last hurdle. However, he was tripped at the final hurdle to fall miserably before the finish.
Kerala's MP Jabir (51.34s) and Tamil Nadu's T Santhosh Kumar (51.71s) were the other medalists on Friday.
In long jump, Uttar Pradesh's Yugant Shekhar Singh registered a personal best of 7.79m to pocket the gold. Muhammed Anees, representing Gujarat, leapt 7.64m to take the silver while Karnataka's SE Shamsheer went home with a bronze after putting an effort of 7.49m.
In discus throw, Punjab thrower Kirpal Singh Batth obliterated the 16-year-old meet record by hurling the disc to 59.74m. The previous mark was held by Anil Kumar (59.74m) since 2000. It was indeed a big improvement for Kirpal, who had bagged a bronze last year, to win the gold this time.
Defending champion Navjeet Kaur Dhillon retained the gold in women's discus throw with 55.07m.
In a keen contest, the men's high jump field saw three jumpers producing an identical clearance over 2.17m. In a tie-breaker Haryana's Ajay Kumar took the top spot while Ritesh Kumar (UP) and Jagdeep Singh (Punjab) declared the silver and bronze medalists respectively.
Kerala's K D Sindhu garnered 4,441 points to win the heptathlon. She was newly married to AV Rakesh Babu, who won the silver medal in triple jump two days back.
Tamil Nadu boys (40.72 secs) and Maharashtra girls (47.26s) clinched the gold medal in 4x100m relay in their respective categories.