As chaos swirls around world athletics in the knowledge that a two-time drug offender has become the world 100 metres champion, virtually splitting support down the middle with even a few pointing fingers towards the IAAF and their lax policies, a story that is running on consistent lines, till the moment at least is Indian athletics. It’s not THE story. But the tone and resonance of it has not changed over the years. Athletes qualify, run good timings, some even break national records. But step on an international track in front of a world audience and suddenly their veins are filled with ice. Three examples till now: Muhammed Anas in the 400 metres, Dutee Chand in the 100 metres and Swapna Barman in the Heptathlon.
Much was expected from Anas. Let’s be realistic, expecting him to be on the podium is doing a disservice to him. Anas reached here without quality coaching, the inputs relevant required to even make it to the top six in the world are non-existent in India. Let’s go back to one line that Sebastian Coe said when he was in Bhubaneswar for the Asian Athletics: "Great coaches make great athletes." The import of that is not lost on anyone; even though that line didn’t create headlines in Indian newspapers. It’s the will needed from coaching individuals to invest to create a great athlete. Everybody can’t be as lucky as Glen Mills to have Usain Bolt. Even there, Mills would have worked his butt off to give Bolt to the world in 2008 Beijing. In the Indian context, Sriram Singh and his coach Illyas Babar come to mind along with PT Usha and OM Nambiar.
Yet it is perplexing at times to try and understand why Anas ran 45.98. It was perfect weather when heat six started. USA’s Gil Roberts and Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun were in the mix. Till the 200 metres mark, Anas ran strongly before the others powered away. The question wasn’t about keeping up with them, but off fading away. A time between 45.32 and 45.71 would have qualified him for the semis. Anas didn’t have to come in the top three in his heats. He needed to be one of the six fastest losers to enter the semi-finals. And for that he needed to hit between 45.58 and 45.70; all within his talent and grasp. He later said, "I will do my best in the 4X400 relay." In terms of position, Anas finished 33rd out of 49 competitors.
It had started drizzling when the heats of the 100 metres women started on Saturday. It was slightly chilly, the wind had picked up and these were tough conditions for all athletes, not only for Dutee Chand. The Odisha-based runner had been extended a last minute invitation to run in the 100 metres as a few entries had not confirmed. For the record, Dutee had run 11.30 in Delhi with the qualifying for the World Championships set at 11.24. By the time heat five started, the rain had intensified. Making matters worse, Germany’s Tatjana Pinto was disqualified for a false start. Dutee appeared rattled. A bad start made it worse and a time of 12.07 probably embarrassed her. Her best of 11.24 or even an 11.30 would have seen Dutee become the first Indian woman to enter the 100 metres semis. For her, an 11.30 repeat would have seen her qualify as one of the six fastest losers. Anything less and she would have been out.
There was a battery of reporters and TV crews waiting for Dutee. No questions on the 100 metres performance, obviously but a whole lot of answers were awaited on how the Indian sprinter ran and fought her case against the IAAF at the same time. There was a Brazilian TV crew, reporters from Africa, Latvia, the BBC and also an old gentleman who was researching the psychological impact of such cases on the athletes. Dutee’s smile usually disarms a lot of people and the reporters were careful of what they asked and how. But she replied in Hindi with a local translator in tow. On the impact the case has had on her, Dutee said, "It’s something I live with. The constant nagging fear is always there that the IAAF can bring the ban again. But I am confident that I will win and keep running so that I can win medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games."
A few reporters did ask whether she had met South Africa’s Caster Semenya, someone who was also under the scanner for hyperandrogenism. "Yes, I met her at the Rio Olympics," Dutee said. And the question back on what they said to each other. "She told me," replied Dutee with a big smile," that we should not change at all. God has made us like this and this is who we are.”
Dutee, however, made a point about the weather. "In India, we all run in the heat and humidity and then suddenly we run here in different weather conditions," she tried explaining the reason for running a poor 12.07. "I am not forwarding any excuse. I apologise for running badly. But we need to understand how athletes train and what we have at our disposal."
In the Heptathlon, Swapna Barman needs to turn things around after four events – 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put and the 200 metres. At the end of the first day of the Heptathlon, Swapna is in the 30th spot with 3167 points. Swapna had won the Asian Athletic title with a total of 5942 points. Just comparing her Asian performance with the one in London after the first four events, she was below par in all the four. 13.99 in the 100 hurdles to 14.14 in London; 1.86 in the high jump to 1.71 here at the WC; 11.39 in the shot put to a poor 10.81 here and then 26.11 in the 200 metres to running 26.45 in London. Compare that to Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez, who improved on her high jump personal best by a staggering 8 cms and climbed to third position in the Heptathlon rankings.
Updated Date: Aug 06, 2017 17:44 PM