The Indian sporting fans witnessed a historic moment last week as the Indian quartet of Muhammad Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Muhammad Ajmal Variathodi and Rajesh Ramesh shattered the Asian Record in the semifinal heat of 4X400m Men's Relay at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. Completing the race in 2:59.05 seconds, India finished second only behind the United States of America, and became the first Men's Relay team to qualify for the final at the World Athletics Championship.
They improved on the previous mark of 2:29.51 set by Japan in last year's World Championship in Eugene, USA. While India’s Men’s 4x400m Relay unit finished fifth in the final, the star-making performance made headlines all over the world and received widespread praise from all corners.
"The best compliment that we received was from a member of the Netherlands contingent. After we were walking back to our dressing room, he came running to us and said, 'this is how you run with heart'. We also received praise from Jamaicans, the USA, Great Britain and a lot of other people who gave us positive remarks over our performance," Amoj said at a media briefing of the Indian Men's Relay Team on Saturday.
But achieving historic results such as this is never an easy feat. A lot goes on behind the scenes in the lives of the athletes. The JSW Sports athletes opened up on the conversations that the team had with their coaches and how a slight change in technique improved their timing.
"Before the heats, the coaches told us to go into the mentality that we can achieve our target of finishing the race with a time of 2:58. So, we entered with the same mindset and treated the Heats as a final for us, where we wanted to achieve our targets," Ajmal said.
"The coaches gave us a great pep talk and motivated us. There was no pressure from their side which made us feel relaxed and we put in our best efforts and the results showed that," Rajesh added.
Further breaking down their training routine, Anas opened up on how the team improved on their timing on baton exchange with little tweaks in techniques.
"We work really hard at training everyday. We start early in the morning at 7 AM and we workout till 9 AM. After a bit of rest in the day, we return for training in the evening from 5 PM to 7 PM. As advised by our Coach Raj Mohan, we have made slight tweaks in our techniques during the exchange of batons. Those minor adjustments are really helping the team as we are able to switch a little quicker and as a team, we are feeling more confident," he said.
Injuries are also a part and parcel of an athletes' life, and Amoj, who faced a few injuries himself in the past year, expressed gratitude to JSW Sports and Inspire Institute of Sport for providing the athletes with proper medical care whenever needed.
“JSW Sports has been a major support throughout this journey for us. When an athlete gets injured, the primary process is about getting a proper rehab facility where you can work on regaining fitness quickly, without further aggravating injuries. There is a great rehabilitation facility at the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS), in Bellary, and every time we have needed any support, we are provided with the best possible care. All we need to do is connect with JSW and they make all the arrangements. We have also received a lot of support from the psychological departments at IIS as good mental health has also become crucial in today's sporting environment,” he said.
Another factor that has helped the quartet is the close friendship and camaraderie the four enjoy among themselves. Not only do they constantly remain in touch and spend time together, they also go out to have fun together if time allows. Playing cricket, volleyball, and watching movies together are some of the activities Anas, Rajesh, Ajmal and Amad enjoy doing together.
"Rajesh made us watch the Tamil blockbuster Jailer in Budapest, and we all really enjoyed it. Rajinikanth Sir was amazing and it was a fun experience. Apart from watching movies, we also play cricket, volleyball, football, and our coaches join us as well. These games among us tend to become very competitive and we all engage in fun banter,” Amoj revealed.
Anas further delved deeper into the relationship with his teammates and explained how having close bonds with each other leads to a spirited performance on the tracks.
"We talk after each training session, practice race, main race, about how it went, and we open up the tiniest of things to each other. If we have any concerns, we raise it immediately. Fixing mistakes can happen when you are friends with the people you are in the team with because there is trust between you. It is great motivation that people around me completely understand me and we all are able to communicate effectively at all times.”
Now with the Asian Games in sight, and the Paris Olympics less than a year away, the Indian Men’s 4X400m Relay team are prepared to build on the momentum and scale new heights.
"Our performance at the World Championships is a big motivation for us heading into the Asian games. I feel if we can handle the pressure at the Worlds, we are good to take that kind of pressure even at the Olympics. We are eagerly awaiting the World Relays next year in Nassau in May, which will be a good chance for us to qualify for the Olympics. There is still time for us to improve even further till then and we are working on the same,” Rajesh said.
“The fact that we achieved the result of 2 minutes 58 seconds in the Heats of the World Athletics Championships gives us more confidence that we will be able to achieve a good result at the Asian Games. We are motivated to earn a Gold at the Games and build on our momentum up to the Paris Olympics,” Ajmal signed off.
Wordswork Media Release