After Dutee Chand qualified for Rio Olympics in women’s 100m last week, it was the turn of Nirmala Sheoran of Haryana to clinch the Rio berth in women’s 400m event. While Dutee met the Olympic qualification mark of 11.32 seconds by running in 11.30 at XXVI International Meeting in Kazakhstan, Nirmala clocked her personal best time of 51.48 seconds to fall within the qualifying time of 52.20 seconds at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics championships at Hyderabad on Friday July 1. Earlier on June 25, Muhammad Anas also made the Rio Olympics grade in 400m by clocking 45.40 second and setting a new national record at the Polish National championships in Bydgoszcz. On June 26, Anas was joined by three more Indian athletes in making the Olympic grade. Srabani Nanda qualified for women’s 200m; Ankit Singh made the cut in men’s long jump and Atanu Das in Archery. Last fortnight, two Indian weightlifters found themselves on the list of Rio qualifiers by topping the selection trials in their weight categories at Patiala. In men’s 77 kg class, Sivalingam Sathish Kumar made the grade by lifting a total of 336 kg, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu qualified for the 48 kg category with a total lift of 192 kg. With these new names being added, the size of the Indian contingent has swelled to 103 and more names could get added in coming days.
Odisha woman Dutee Chand became the first Indian woman athlete in 36 years to qualify for 100m sprint at the Rio Olympics. Dutee bettered the Olympic qualifying mark of 11.32 seconds by coasting in 11.30 seconds in her heat at the XXVI International Meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan on June 25. After PT Usha in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Game, no woman athlete has been able to qualify for Olympics in 100m. After meeting the Olympic norm in her heats, the 20-year-old Dutee did even better in the main event and clocked 11.24 seconds to win the silver medal. In the process, Dutee bettered her own national record of 11.33 seconds, which she set last April.
On July 1, woman quarter-miler Nirmala Sheoran booked her Rio Olympics berth by clocking 51.48 seconds in 400m at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics championships at Hyderabad. In her heat earlier, Nirmala improved her personal best by running in 52.35 and then the Haryana woman ran the race of her life to finish ahead of the Olympic qualifying mark of 52.20. She also broke the earlier national record set by M R Poovamma in 2014.
While Dutee and Nirmala are the latest addition to the Indian athletic contingent, four athletes had joined the Rio bus last week after their fine performances at the Polish National championships in Bydgoszcz. Muhammad Anas qualified for men’s 400m by clocking 45.40, which is also a new national record. Next day, Srabani Nanda qualified for women’s 200m; Ankit Singh made the grade in men’s long jump and Atanu Das in qualified for Archery.
Besides track-and-field events, two weightlifters also made Olympic grade at the selection trials held in Patiala 15 days ago. Shivlingam Sathish Kumar earned his Olympic ticket in the 77 kg category by lifting 151 kg in snatch and 185 kg in clean & jerk. The total of 336 kg was enough for him to get included in the Indian Olympic squad. Among women, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu booked her place in the 48 kg class by lifting 85 kg in snatch and 107 kg in clean & jerk. With the total of 192 kg, Mirabai also broke the earlier record of 190 kg, held hitherto by Kunjarani. India had earned two quota places during the Senior Asian Championships at Tashkent, when Indian women lifters collected 100 points to finish third, while men earned 129 points with a sixth-place finish.
Now the size of Indian contingent is 103 athletes in 13 different sports. There are many medal hopes among them but this will be the first time that India have their biggest representation in the prestigious quadrennial event. Many participants will leave the country earlier for acclimatizing themselves or training for the main event. Incidentally, India had sent 83 sportspersons in the 2012 London Olympic Games.