Clocking a new Asian record and going under three minutes at the recent World Championships has given the Indian men’s 4x400m relay team a boost of confidence that they hope will not just help them at the Asian Games but also push them to go all the way to the Paris Olympics next year.
Back to training at the SAI Centre in Thiruvananthapuram now, the quartet of Amoj Jacob, Mohd. Ajmal, Mohd. Anas Yahiya and Rajesh Ramesh have set bigger targets for themselves.
“We are done with our recovery and are now focussing on the conditioning. Up next will be the Grand Prix (in Chandigarh) on the 10th and we hope to do well and stay injury-free,” Amoj told media on Saturday.
For someone who shifted from 800m to the shorter format because he “was not able to handle the workout, I can’t do that much running” and almost quit the sport last year, Amoj has eased into being their unofficial spokesman.
“Before the heats, we were planning on clocking 2:58 but coach (Jason Dawson) had some plans. He told us the order of running and asked us to try and come in the first bunch and qualify but not take too much stress about the timing.
“The next day, he said you have achieved what you wanted, now just give 2-3 per cent more for the timing but unfortunately we could not do it,” he admitted.
Becoming a sprinter
“It is tough to get into sprints coming from a middle distance as you have to work on a lot of technical aspects and I had injury issues. Last year, I had 6-7 injuries in a span of 3-4 months and it was very frustrating, I even thought of quitting athletics. But my parents supported me, my friends pushed me and (coach) Rajmohan sir helped me a lot,” he revealed.
Rajesh, who ran a fantastic anchor leg in Budapest, came into the national relay camp only in 2021 and admitted he was scared. “Last year at the Worlds we could only do 3:07. It was my first big tournament and we had injury issues also. Before the heats, I told Amoj that I was scared but he motivated me a lot and asked me to only focus on giving my best,” he explained.
Anas said they had the sub-3-minute mark on their radar for a long time. “Actually we had planned to do it at the Asian Championships and in Sri Lanka also but that didn’t happen. We hang out together a lot even during camps and that helps on the track also — if one of us makes a mistake, the others come together to sort it out and get better the next time,” he said.