A unique century was scored on Sunday. It didn’t come in a cricket game, but had Team India written all over it. The country’s contingent to the Rio Olympics swelled to over 100 – the largest ever for the quadrennial event.
The milestone was reached when quarter-miler Mohammad Anas, sprinter Srabani Nanada, long jumper Ankit Sharma and archer Atanu Das clinched Rio berths.
Participating in a qualifying event in Poland, Anas made the grade by clocking 45.40 seconds in the men 400m to equal the qualification mark and win gold in the Poland National Athletics Championships. The 21-year-old also smashed his own national mark of 45.44s. “This has to be the best moment in my career. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m going to the Olympics,” the Kerala runner gushed. At the Kosanov Memorial Meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Odisha sprinter Srabani Nanda won a qualification in the 200m race. Almaty was the scene of Dutee Chand’s history-making women’s 100m qualification a day earlier.
Completing a rare double for India, Srabani clocked 23.07 secs, a good 0.13 seconds off the Olympic qualifying mark of 23.20, and win bronze at Almaty. Rachita Mistry was the last Indian woman to qualify for the women’s 200m, at the Sydney Olympics 16 years ago.
Not to be outdone, Morena boy Ankit Sharma smashed the existing long jump national record with 8.19m to win the gold in Almaty and also ensure his passage to Rio. Ankit had earlier leapt to 8.17m, better than the qualifying standard of 8.15m.
Elsewhere on Sunday, archer Atanu Das was selected for the men’s recurve event following trials in Bengaluru.
With the Indian track and field numbers already reaching an impressive 23, the Indian contingent could further increase in the coming weeks with more athletes likely to find themselves in the fray.
The boxing team could see three more qualifying at the final Venezuela meet next month. In aquatics, five swimmers have already made the B cut, while the last qualifier in Hong Kong next month to determine how many swimmers go or whether India is awarded a wild card.
Despite the 32 hockey players – both men and women squads – forming the regular feature at the Olympics, the Indian Olympic contingent this time would be the largest-ever. While the London Olympics four years ago saw a 83-strong Indian contingent, in April, the then sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal told the Parliament in April, that the ministry had forecast a team of around 90 athletes, with 10-plus medals being targeted.
Yet, in what can dampen the ministry’s forecasts of a bullish medal tally, according to projections by Infostrada, leading sports database providers and forecasters, India would end up at No.46th in the medals tally, with only one gold (mixed doubles tennis) and three bronze (women’s archery, team; Shiva Thapa in boxing and Jitu Rai in pistol shooting) to show for its 100-plus presence at Rio.