The Chinese virtually taking over this year’s Asian women’s quartermile rankings – they now occupy seven of the top 10 rungs, including the top four – should be a big worry for Indians.
Heading the chart is the tall 29-year-old Huizhen Yang, the 2015 Asian 400m champion, who clocked 51.63s for the National Games gold in Xi’an last month. Behind her are 19-year-old Guojuan Liu (51.94s) and Chunyu Wang (52s), who was also fifth in the 800m at the Tokyo Olympics, and Zenghuan Tong (52.17s). Never before has the Asian list looked so crowded with Chinese presence in the last 10 years.
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India had five athletes in the Asian top 10 in 2019 (China had none then) and 2018 (China two) but has just two this year: the country’s fastest quartermiler this year Priya H. Mohan (52.77s) in fifth place and Dandi Jyothika (53.05) in ninth. 2020 has been pulled out from the comparative study as it was an inactive year.
The Chinese domination of the quartermile is an indication that India’s chances of extending its five-gold streak in the women’s 4x400m relay, which it had won at every Asian Games since 2002, could be in big trouble in next year’s Asiad which China will host at Hangzhou in September.
‘It won’t be easy’
“Since 2020 was a COVID year, our athletes did not have much time to train properly. Girls like Vismaya and others could not do well but they will come back. We need not get nervous, we still have time,” Tintu Luka, the star of the Indian relay team that won the gold at Incheon 2014 with the Asian Games record that the country still holds, told Sportstar on Wednesday evening.
“But it won’t be easy, we will have to work harder this time.”
Two 18-year-olds, Priya Mohan (fourth at under-20 Worlds in 400m) and Summy (53.57) who helped India to the mixed relay bronze and women’s relay fourth place at the Nairobi under-20 Worlds in August, showed there are youngsters knocking at the relay team’s doors. The recent national meets threw up two very promising youngsters – AP’s 21-year-old Dandi Jyothika (53.05s, second fastest Indian this year) at the under-23 Nationals and UP’s 16-year-old Rupal Chaudhary (53.73) in the 400m Nationals in Delhi on Tuesday – proved that there is abundant talent.
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Incidentally, three of them were faster than the three who went to the Tokyo Olympics with the mixed relay team. And Rupal, the 10 fastest under-18 girl in the world this year, was more than a second faster than even the women’s winner in the 400m Nationals while running in the under-18 category.
With the Indian women’s relay team failing to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, it will be interesting to see what strategy the Athletics Federation of India adopts to bring the young talent into the national team for next year’s Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, under-20 Worlds and Worlds.