Amlan Borgohain, Sabita Toppo shine at inaugural Reliance Foundation Odisha HPC competition, 100 personal bests registered
Amlan Borgohain consolidated his position as the top ranked 200m sprinter in India in 2020 with a personal best of 21.20 seconds in the final competition on Sunday. In the 100m as well, Borgohain, ran a personal best of 10.63 seconds, making it his sixth personal best in six races over the competition series (three each in the 100 and 200m).
Athletes from the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) in Bhubaneswar registered an impressive 100 personal best (PB) timings over the four-competition series that concluded at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday, 8 November.
The Sprint and Middle distance fest that began on 24 October with further events on 28 and 31 October before the finale on Sunday, was contested in a uniquely designed concept of “Performance Graded Races.” In a significant departure from practice, races at these competitions were graded entirely on timings achieved by athletes, irrespective of their age or sex.
Among the standout performers at the competitions was Amlan Borgohain, who consolidated his position as the top ranked 200m sprinter in India in 2020 with a personal best of 21.20 seconds in the final competition on Sunday. In the 100m as well, Borgohain, ran a personal best of 10.63 seconds, making it his sixth personal best in six races over the competition series (three each in the 100 and 200m).
His efforts deservedly won him the Best Overall Performance Award for the entire Sprint and Middle Distance Fest. Head coach James Hillier, who selected Borgohain after a four-week trial in April to join the HPC, believes the competition series provided a glimpse into his tremendous potential and the 22-year old will only go from strength to strength from here.
“Amlan’s time of 21.20 in the 200m is a significant improvement on his personal best of 21.89 set prior to joining the HPC,” said Hillier. “His progress has been somewhat meteoric, making huge improvements in all areas of his training over the past 7 months.”
“Areas such as specific sprint training, nutrition, body fat analysis, psychology, weight training, flexibility, recovery and conditioning to name a few are looked into in incredible depth for Amlan,” adds Hillier. “During our periodic performance assessments we established that Amlan had gained lean muscle mass whilst dropping weight and fat percentage— he was therefore pound for pound more powerful. It was a highly structured training approach that has helped him improve so rapidly since joining the HPC.”
Amlan’s next goal is to drop his timing to below 21 second before he can aim to represent India at the senior level.
Another athlete who impressed during the course of the competitions was sprint hurdler Sabita , who is only 15-years old. Toppo, who hails from Sundargarh and joined the HPC in August last year, achieved four PBs in six races including three in her favoured 100m hurdles event.
In the second race of the final competition on Sunday, Toppo clocked 14.54 seconds, and has now improved her timing by more than two seconds since coming on board at the HPC. Hillier describes Toppo as an “incredible natural talent” and “ferocious competitor.” Considering her young age, the approach being adopted is for her to compete in multi-events before a possible move to the hurdles exclusively in the long term.
Due to restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the four-competition series were restricted to the 29 athletes from the HPC, who are split between the monitoring cohort and the academy. Athletes in the cohort are identified as being a maximum of five years away from winning a national level medal. Twenty such athletes from all over Odisha are currently part of the monitoring cohort and reside at the Bhubaneswar state sports hostel while nine (six from Odisha) are part of the HPC academy group and live at the Athletics HPC in the Kalinga stadium.
Athletes in the academy group are identified at various stages of development from being two years away from winning a national level medal to those with established international credentials. Hillier is confident that the experience of participating in a competitive environment, as they have over these four events, would be an invaluable lesson for the athletes.
“Athletes were exposed to relevant learning experiences such as a two-call room process which they will be exposed to in national and international competitions in the future,” he explained.
“International norms such as photo finish and electronic timing were used to give the athletes accurate timings and a professional competition experience. Whether the athletes are established or fairly new to the sport we wanted as a team to see process, learning and subsequently performance improvements across the four competitions. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about the individual preparations of our athletes so we can better optimise the peaking process in competitions next year.”
“It would have been very easy for us in the current pandemic to have not had a competition at the end of our training year,” he elaborated.
“However we were determined that we could find a way to make it happen— and we did! We listened to what the athletes wanted as they are central to everything we do— quite simply we want to give them every opportunity to perform at their best. So we made the races competitive with disregard for age and sex, we included pacemakers and we had lively music between the races to help keep the athletes energised.”
The athletes will now have the opportunity to rest and rejuvenate as the HPC takes a three-week break, a period Hillier hopes will be spent on reflection.
“They will need to ask themselves questions such as 'What would I do differently if I had this opportunity again?' 'What have I learnt?' 'What did I do well?' 'What do I need to work on and improve?'”, he concludes. “The process of reflection should be a consistent process that happens after all competitions and will help and guide athletes to get better and reach their genetic potential.”
RF Odisha HPC Competition Series
Best Overall Performance— Amlan Borgohain for his 200m performance/s
Best Male Performance— MD Almagir Hussain
Best Female Performance—Sabita Toppo
Most Improved Athlete— Balabadra Bhatra
Most Consistent Athlete— Debi Prasad Kar
Best Monitoring Cohort Performance— Mohendra Santa
Best Newcomer— Laxmi Priya Kissan
Athlete's Athlete of the Year (voted by the athletes)— Birsa Gagarai
Additional Awards for the end of year
Sportsmanship Athlete of the Year (voted by the athletes)— Birsa Gagarai
Dedicated Athlete of the Year (voted by the athletes) — Aryan Ekka
Best Student of the year HPC and MC Combined: Athlete who did well in Academics— Sawan Toppo
Male Captain for 2020 - 2021(voted by the athletes)— Amlan Borgohain
Female Captain for 2020 - 2021 (voted by the athletes)-—Laxmi Priya Kissan
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