With four athletes closing in on Asian Games qualifiers in the women’s 400m semi-finals, expectations are high ahead of the final at the IAAF National Senior Interstate Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. Millers quarter certainly did not disappoint. With the first and second place runners clocking under 52 seconds, this was one of the fastest 400m races ever held on Indian soil. Anjali Devi stole the show with 51.48 seconds, the fastest quarter mile run by an Indian since 2016. Himanshi Malik (Haryana) from Haryana gave her a run for her money with 51.76 seconds. There was another consistent rookie who went almost unnoticed on the stand despite scoring three runs without 53 in two days.

Vithya Ramraj of Tamil Nadu ran 52.49 seconds, within the AFI qualifying guideline of 53.49 seconds, to win the bronze medal. Third place in the field of quality was a shot in the arm for Vithya. Vithia, who feels most confident in the 400m hurdles, is one of the most improved athletes on the circuit. She posted the second fastest time in the semifinals, with 52.43 seconds. She also improved her personal best twice in several events.

A national camp regular, Vithea quit coaching after 400m head coach Galina Bukharina abruptly left in November last year. Vithia was about to quit the sport completely but decided to train outside the camp. It was a decision that not even her parents supported at first. But the 24-year-old needed this break to not only work on her style but also her belief in herself. “I needed a lot of individual attention. I wasn’t ready to train with a new coach after the lady left and I felt a bit lost. I know I’m a better runner than most in the circuit but during competitions I get scared. I still have to work on my faith,” said Vithia. by myself”.

But not being in the national camp came at a price. She no longer had the free training pad, food and lodging besides other allowances. Her truck driver father did not have the resources to fund her training at the elite level. This is when her best friend and identical twin Nithya intervenes. Nithya is also a national level athlete and competes in the 100m hurdles.

“My sister had a job so she took care of all my training expenses. She has always supported me and that is the reason why I stay in this sport.” But those testing times are behind. I recently got a job on the railroad. With the guarantee of a steady income, Vithia can focus on her sport without distraction. She has teamed up with former athlete Nihbal Singh, who has been mentoring her since she left the camp. Nihpal has his roots in Rajasthan, but he has settled down in Chennai where he trains a handful of athletes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
With Vithya, Nehpal feels it was always a matter of speed and stamina. “She always led the first 300 meters but ran out of steam at the end of the work. We worked a lot in that area,” said Nehpal.

Vithia came into the limelight at the 2021 Open Nationals where she won three gold medals – 400m, 400m hurdles and 400m relay. Although the final call on who will make the trip to Hangzhou for the Asian Games will be made after the post-meeting selection committee meeting, it will probably make the cut for the relay team if not the 400m individual event.

She still prefers her 400-meter hurdles event to compete at the international level. It has not been an easy road for the Ramage sisters, as their father works extra shifts as a truck driver to put food on the table. Not only did the sport bring them recognition, but much-needed financial stability. “More than medals, I am proud of the fact that I can ask my father to quit his job. We sisters are taking care of the family now. I feel great joy,” said Vithya.

Vithya was also very happy to fulfill her mother’s dream of traveling in an airplane when she booked her tickets from Chennai to Bhubaneshwar to be at the interstate meeting. “I cannot express the joy I feel when I fulfill my father’s dreams,” she said. So what’s next on their parents’ wish list: “An Asian Games medal. And wait, my dad, he wants us to get a car, too.”

Key findings: (Women) 400m (AG Q 52.96s) 1. Anjali Devi (Haryana) 51.48s, 2. Himanshi Malik (Haryana) 51.76s, 3. R Vithya Ramraj (Tamil Nadu) 52.49s; 1500m (AG Q4:15.49sec) 1. KM Deeksha 4:06.07sec (Madhya Pradesh) 2. Harmilan Pines (Punjab) 4:08.50sec, 3. Chanda (Delhi) 4:09.39sec; (Men) 400m (AG Q 46.17 seconds) 1. Kalinga Kumaraj (Sri Lanka) 45.64 seconds 2. Muhammad Anas (Kerala) 45.76 seconds 3. Muhammad Ajmal (Kerala) 45.90 seconds; 800m: 1. Krishan Kumar (Haryana) 1:46.17 seconds, 2. Muhammad Afsal (Kerala) 1:47.47 seconds, 3. Pradeep Sentil Kumar (Tamil Nadu) 1:48.10 seconds.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *