In a surprise move, the Athletics Federation of India has included Priyanka Panwar in the Indian 4x400 relay team for the World Championships, starting in Beijing on August 22, despite her poor show this season.
Priyanka has competed in just one 400M race this season, the Inter-Railway meet last week in Bhopal, where she clocked an unimpressive time in the heats. The Western Railway runner didn’t start in the final despite qualifying for the race.
The list forwarded by the AFI to the Sports Authority of India for approval includes all the athletes who qualified for the Worlds while the relay team’s presence is set to get confirmation from the International Association of Athletics Federations after the qualification period ended on Monday.
The top eight teams from last year’s World Relays and the top eight from the world lists will make the final 16 for Beijing. India are well-placed to make it, being placed 12th overall thanks to their timing of 3:28.68 at the Asian Games last year in Incheon, where they won the gold.
Priyanka, who was among the six quartermilers banned for doping back in 2011, was part of the Asian Games squad but this season, she has been in woeful form. She didn’t compete in the Federation Cup in Mangaluru back in May while at the Inter-State meet in Chennai, she just ran the 200M, winning the bronze in 25.01 seconds.
At the Inter-Railway meet, Priyanka timed 58.09 seconds in her heat before skipping the final, won by Sini Jose in 56.56 seconds, raising further questions about her form and fitness. The 27-year-old also did not take part in the trials conducted by the AFI for the relay team in Patiala, where Anu Raghavan, Debashree, Jauna Murmu and Anju Thomas took the first four places.
M R Poovamma, Tintu Luka, Jisna Mathew, Debashree and Anu are the other five members of the World Championship relay squad. The first four ran the Asian Championship in Wuhan where India won the silver behind China.