Camaraderie built on movies, cricket, volleyball reason behind record run of 4×400 relay team

While Neeraj Chopra was in the spotlight on winning the gold medal in the javelin throw, the men’s 4×400 metres relay team also made its mark in the recently-concluded World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

While Neeraj Chopra was in the spotlight on winning the gold medal in the javelin throw, the men’s 4×400 metres relay team also made its mark in the recently-concluded World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

The team comprising Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Amoj Jacob, Muhammad Ajmal Variathodi and Rajesh Ramesh made a historic moment possible as the Indian quartet shattered the Asian Record in the semifinal heat of Men’s 4X400m 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 improved on the previous mark of 2:29.51 set by Japan in last year’s World Championship in Eugene, USA.

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While in the final, they finished fifth in the final, their performance in the semifinal 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 the Jamaicans, the USA, Great Britain and a lot of other people who gave us positive remarks over our performance,” said Amoj Jacob in a media briefing of the Indian Men’s Relay Team on Saturday.

However, 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 gave an insight into how a slight change in technique improved their timing.

“Before the heats, the coaches told us to go in with 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 informed on how the team improved on their timing on baton exchange with little tweaks in techniques.

“We work really hard at training every day. We start early in the morning at 7 AM and we work 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 can switch a little quicker and as a team, we are feeling more confident,” he said.

Injuries are also a part and parcel of athletes’ lives, and Amoj, who faced a few injuries himself in the past year, expressed gratitude to JSW Sports and Inspire Institute of Sport for providing them with proper medical care whenever needed.

Another factor that has helped the quartet is the close friendship and camaraderie they share 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, and 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, and 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 a great motivation that people around me completely understand me and we all can communicate effectively at all times.”

With the Asian Games up next, and the Paris Olympics less than a year away, the Indian Men’s 4X400m Relay team is 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,” said Ajmal.

(IANS)

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