Indian women and men’s relay teams book tickets to Paris 2024 athletics competition

Indian Women’s Relay Squad (Image: AFI)

The Indian women and men’s 1600 relays teams booked their tickets to Paris 2024 Olympic Games with creditable efforts in the Olympic Qualifying Round 2 at the World Athletics Relays Challenge in Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday. Overcoming the disappointment of Saturday’s display, the two teams finished second in their respective races to secure qualification.

With two Paris 2024 places available in each of the Olympic Qualifying Round 2 heats, the Indian thinktank chose to skip the Mixed Relay and focus on the women’s and men’s races. While a change in the men’s team was forced because of the hamstring injury to Rajesh Ramesh on Saturday, it also decided to field Rupal in place of Vithiya Ramaraj in the women’s race.

With Rupal leading off well, Dandi Jyothika Sri justified the responsibility the coaches gave her of running the second leg. She responded by lifting India from the fourth place to second, getting a measure of Brazil’s Leticia Lima and Germany’s Skadi Schier and handed the baton to MR Poovamma nearly half a second ahead of Germany.

Running the third leg. Poovamma clipped half a second from her second-leg time of Saturday. With the Brazilian and German runners significantly slower than her, she was able to increase India’s lead to more than a second and a half when she passed the baton to Subha Venkatesan. The anchor was able to run a hundredth of a second faster than Saturday as she saw India home.

Emerging the fastest of the five anchor leg runners in the race, Subha Venkatesan bridged the gap with Jamaica – world championships silver medallists in 2022 and 2023 – to 0.81 seconds.

While this would be the eighth Olympic Games appearance for an Indian women’s 1600m relay squad, it is interesting that the National record has stood for two decades. It was set at 3:26.89 by Sathi Geetha, KM Beenamol, Chithra Soman and Rajwinder Kaur in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

The men’s team which could have made the grade as one of the two teams from the top list left nothing to chance, though it was without Rajesh Ramesh who pulled up injured in the second leg of the Qualifying Round 1 on Saturday. India brought in veteran Arokia Rajiv but moved Muhammad Ajmal to the second leg with good effect.

The team finished second behind the United States of America with a time of 3:03.23, considerably slower than the sub 3-minute efforts it managed in the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. It has time to work on areas of improvement and peak in Paris which will see the fourth appearance of an Indian men’s 1600m relay squad since independence.

INdian Men’s Relay Team (Image: AFI)