Road to Rio: Sprinter Srabani Nanda's Olympic hopes rest on a perfect performance
26-year old Srabani Nanda from Orissa is a 100m, 200m and 4x100m Indian sprinter and qualified for the 200m and 4x100m relay for the Rio Olympics.
Name: Srabani Nanda
Discipline (sport): Athletics
Category: Women's 200m sprint, women's 4x100m relay
Qualification: Ran a 200-metre sprint in 23.07 seconds at the G Kosanov Memorial Meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, well under the official Olympic qualification mark of 23.20 seconds.
Strengths: She is one of India's fastest 200m runners along with the likes of Dutee Chand. Her fastest time of 23.07 is still short of the national record, but was fast enough to get her to Rio.
Past Olympic performance: Debut
Past record (best performances): Gold medal in women's 200m sprint at the 2016 South Asian Games in Assam.
- Silver medal in women's 100m sprint at 2016 South Asian Games in Assam.
- Bronze medal in women's 100m sprint at 2007 SAF Games in Colombo.
- Bronze medal in women's 200m sprint at 2007 SAF Games in Colombo.
- Bronze medal in women's 4x100m relay at 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Rio prospects: Srabani Nanda would look to improve upon her own best timing, but her chances of winning a medal do seem a distant prospect, given the competition she will be up against.
Nanda, who hails from Kandhamal district of Odisha, is a 100m, 200m and 4x100m sprinter, but will not participate in the former discipline at the Rio Olympics.
She lists Jamaican sprint king and the "fastest man in the world" Usain Bolt as her inspiration. Speaking of the time Bolt first hit our consciousness in the 2008 Beijing Games, Nanda said, "At the time, there was an inter-state meet going on. When the competition ended, we were watching highlights of Bolt. I didn't have much craze for the Olympics then. I didn't even know how to go about the qualifications. I used to compete in athletics but I hadn't thought much about it. Only after watching Bolt, I started learning about everything," said Nanda toold The Hindu in an interview.
Usain Bolt's meteoric rise in sprinting may just help India in Brazil, as Nanda watched Bolt tear past his competition and decided she wanted to do the same. But making the Olympic cut and actually being competitive among the best in the world are two completely different goals.
"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 22.20 seconds. My time is 23.07s," Nanda told the Hindu.
But this is easier said than done. The top women's 200m time of 2016 was set by Dafne Schippers of Netherlands, who ran 21.93s in Oslo on 9 June. Nanda's best time of 23.07 is more than a second slower than Schippers' best time of the year. Given that, a medal does seem to be a distant prospect as of now.
To put it in further perspective, the time of 21.88, set by American sprinter Alyson Felix at the 2012 London Olympics to clinch the women's 200m gold medal is the benchmark to follow, and Srabani Nanda falls far short of this too.
Her efforts to be a part of the 100m sprint at Rio were also thwarted, as a power failure at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium meant that the scores for her race were collated using a stopwatch by track officials, a method not recognized by the IAAF.
"In the last two years, I participated in various international events in Europe and Australia and before every event, I used to tell myself, I want to qualify for Olympics but it never happened. Thank God, today I have achieved my dream timing,” she told the Indian Express after achieving her personal best of 23.07.
But while she isn't a medal hope, there is no doubt that Nanda's Rio journey could be a major stepping stone in her development as an athlete. In four years' time, she could be well on her way to spearheading a campaign that holds more promise.
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