Hima Das in relay squad, with a caveat

NEW DELHI :Hima Das, the World Under-20 400m champion, has been pencilled in the women and mixed 4x400m squad for the World Championships yet her participation hinges on her recovery from the longstanding back injury and how it would affect her timings in the team events. The injury has troubled the 19-year-old since last year’s Asian Games and will be monitored right till the eve of the relay events at the Doha World Championships starting later this month.

A decision on Hima running the relays will be taken based on the feedback from sports medicine experts monitoring her, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla told  on Monday.

“At this point, we’re trying to figure out (how her back is). We have a sports medicine expert with her (at the foreign camp) and will take a final call on her later. Of course, she continues to have the back issue. That is why coach Galina (Bukharina) made her run these smaller events to access how her back was. It is ok when she is running at a slower pace, the problem is when she is running at a faster pace. We need to see if she can take the strain of a fast run because this is the world championships and not a small championship in the Czech Republic or Poland,” Sumariwalla said

At the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in April, Hima didn’t finish the 400m heats because the back flared up when she was on track and the AFI doesn’t want to take a risk in a team event at the World Championships.

Between July 2 and July 20, Hima won four gold medals in the 200m and one in 400m at lower-level races in Europe. In mid-August, at Nove Mesto in the Czech Republic, she won gold in the 300 metres.

The 400 metres world under-20 champion, however, failed to meet the qualifying standard in her favourite event. To qualify Hima needed to clock 51.80 seconds, but the back injury seems to have put paid to her plans as her season’s best stands at 52.09, down from her personal best and national record – 50.79.

“She has been running in the 52s (seconds) and see what happened in Doha, we don’t want her sitting down at 200 metres. Her back is now being monitored. Closer to the World Championships, a call will be taken if she will be fielded in the relay team,” Sumariwalla added. In all, 14 athletes have been picked for the men, women and mixed relay squads for the 4x400m relay.

Neeraj unlikely to go

The selection committee also deliberated on the status of another star athlete, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games champion, who had undergone an elbow surgery in May.

During the qualifying window, which began on September 7 last year, Chopra had registered a distance of 83.90 metres at the All India Inter-Services Athletics Championships in Jalahalli and had met the qualifying standard. However, at the selection committee meeting on Monday, it was decided not to risk fielding Chopra as he had just started throwing in late August.

“In Chopra’s case, the conclusion was that at this point we would like to preserve him for the Olympic Games and make sure that he completely recovers. He has just started throwing so we will talk to his doctors, but from the initial reports we have, the consensus is that it’s too early for him to throw. At this point, it is unlikely he will go. The whole selection committee felt that he should recover fully, strengthen himself and target the Olympic Games,” the AFI president said.

The AFI follows a policy of holding confirmatory trials for athletes who have qualified for international events but have not been part of national camps. Anjali, who has made the cut in the 400m, won’t be included in the relay squads, Sumariwalla confirmed. Little-known Anjali had qualified for the World Championships in September last year at the Open National in Bhubaneswar.

She was part of the foreign camp at Antalya in Turkey but when her timings plateaued and then dipped, she was sent back to Patiala, where another batch of 400m athletes were based.

However, she stayed away from the national camp for five months but returned to competition at the inter-state championships in August and met the qualifying standards again. Anjali is not the first 400m runner to have qualified for an international event after staying away from the camp. Nirmala Sheroan, a 2017 Asian Championship gold medallist, was absent from the camp for 10 months leading up to last year’s Asian Games. She met the qualifying standard for the Jakarta Asiad, where she finished fourth. She was not picked for the 4x400m relay squad. In November last year, Nirmala failed a dope test.

The squad

Men: Jabir MP (400m Hurdles), Jinson Johnson (1500m), Avinash Sable (3000m Steeplechase), KT Irfan and Devender Singh (20km Race Walk), Gopi T (Marathon), Sreeshankar M (Long Jump), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (Shot Put), Shivpal Singh (Javelin Throw), Muhammed Anas, Nirmal Noah Tom, Alex Antony, Amoj Jacob, KS Jeevan, Dharun Ayyasamy and Harsh Kumar (4x400m Men’s & Mixed Relay).

Women: PU Chitra (1500m), Annu Rani (Javelin Throw), Hima Das, Vismaya VK, Poovamma MR, Jisna Mathew, Revathi V, Subha Venkatsan, Vithya R (4x400m Women & Mixed Relay).