Onus on Women relay team to salvage Indian reputation

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Beijing, Aug 21 (UNI) With nine athletes giving below par performance, the onus is now on the 4x400m women's relay team to do well and save India blushes in the Olympic Track and Field competition here tomorrow.

There has been much talk about the women's 4x400 relay for the past several months and the hope expressed by Sports Minister M S Gill that he would be very happy to see the team get a medal or even make the final should have given a big boost to the team.

However, it is surprising that so much attention is on the relay team which had to struggle even to qualify and is being considered as medal prospect.

The relay squad with unbelievable performance of 3:28.29 in the second leg of the Asian Grand Prix circuit in Korat, Thailand.

Eventually, it managed to get in as the 15th best team in the world out of 16 that qualified.

Last time at Athens, the team had clocked a sensational 3:26.89, still a National record, in the heats before finishing seventh in the final.

This time, if the team makes the final that would be considered some sort of an achievement despite the fact that two Kaurs - Mandeep and Manjeet - have clocked below 53 seconds, with the former clocking a personal best 51.74 seconds at Madurai, but the others are not really in the same class.

Manjeet Kaur, the national record holder in the individual 400 metres, did not take part in the event here. She had suffered an injury at Madurai during the inter-State championships, but is reported to be fit.

Mandeep Kaur and Chitra Soman should form the first two, but for the other two there still be a toss-up.

Sathi Geetha, who trained separately from the main Indian team which was in Malaysia in the final preparation stage, at Hyderabad, could be the number one choice, but M R Poovamma, who disappointed in the recent World Junior Championships could also be a contender along with Sini Jose and K Mirdula.

Manager Kirpal Singh said the team management has given six names for the relay but will decide about the final four one hour before the relay.

The manager also added that it is yet to be decided who will start first, ''We will also decide about that tomorrow,'' Indian team is placed in heat I along with Poland, Russia, Britain, Germany, Cuba, Ukraine and Japan.

While heat II has Nigeria, Jamaica, France, Mexico, Belarus, US, China and Brazil.

Top three from each heat and the next two fastest will qualify for the finals.

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