India’s 4x400m mixed relay team put on a brilliant performance to clock a season-best timing of 3:16:14 to qualify for the final at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at Doha, Qatar.
The quartet of Muhammed Anas Yahiya, VK Vismaya, Jisna Mathew and Noah Nirmal Tom did the nation proud as they narrowly edged past Belgium to finish third in their heats and seventh overall to make to Sunday’s final.
A final appearance also means that the Indian team has qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The final is scheduled for Sunday, September 29 at 22:35 local time (01:05 IST on Monday).
Quality on display
Starting in lane 2, the Indians banked on the national record holder in 400m, Anas, to give them a good start.
Firing off the blocks, though the Indian tried his best to stay among the leading pack, it proved to be a difficult task as Poland raced ahead to take the lead at the end of the first leg, leaving the rest behind.
Anas, however, did well to stay in contention and hand Vismaya a window of opportunity. The 21-year-old ensured that she made the most of the chance as she raced her way into the lead and then was engaged in a close fight with Brazil’s Tiffani Marinho till the end of her lap.
Later, Jisna built on that but only to end up losing a few precious seconds fumbling while handing over the baton to Nirmal. The anchor runner brought his best out in the final straight to edge past Belgium and help India clinch third place behind Poland and Brazil in the heats and with that a direct entry into Sunday’s final.
Meanwhile, the USA team comprising of Tyrell Richard, Jessica Beard, Jasmine Blocker and Obi Igbokwe topped the heats with a new world record timing of 3:12.42.
Jabir falls in the semis
Apart from the mixed relay team, it was a day of missed opportunities for India as MP Jabir crashed out of the competition in the semifinals.
Jabir, who did well earlier in the competition to qualify for the semifinals of the men’s 400m hurdles race, could not keep his participation going as he finished in fifth place in his race on Saturday (28 September).
Starting in lane 9, the Indian started the race well but soon enough the likes of American Rai Benjamin, one of the medal prospects, and local favourite Abderrahman Samba caught up and crossed him in the race, ultimately finishing as the top two and qualifying for the final.
Jabir, meanwhile, clocked a time of 49.71 seconds and left the meet as one of India’s two male athletes to have made it to the semifinals.
Later, India’s sprint sensation Dutee Chand finished a lowly seventh in her 100m heats on Saturday.
The 23-year-old was quick off the blocks, but couldn't maintain her pace as the race progressed. While Chand gave her all, she was pushed down the order as the others accelerated towards the finish.
Chand ended up finishing seventh with a timing of 11.48 seconds; while reigning Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson of Jamaica finished with the top spot and qualified for the semifinals.
What next for India?
All Indian eyes will be on the mixed relay team in action in Doha on Sunday.
Come Monday, the nation’s female athletes will be in action with Annu Rani, Archana Suseendran and Anjali Devi expected to participate.
With javelin throw being the first event on Monday (September 30), Rani will be participating in the qualifying rounds at 19:00 IST while runners Suseendran and Devi will be in action later that evening.