When a small Indian team left Mumbai at the last minute for the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Colombia, Barath Sridhar did not think the side would win a relay medal as the country had done in last year’s edition in Nairobi.
“We did not have a coach, no physio too, so we did not think we had a chance,” Sridhar told The Hindu from Cali on Thursday evening, a few hours after India’s silver medal show in the 4x400m mixed relay at the under-20 Worlds.
“But when we won our heats, we thought we had a medal chance.”
Meanwhile Priya H. Mohan, who like Sridhar and Kapil had been a part of the bronze-winning team at the 2021 Nairobi under-20 Worlds, wanted to prove a point.
“Last time, many strong teams were missing but this time almost all of them were there. So, we wanted to win a medal badly. In fact, we were going for gold, we felt the US girls were a little weak,” said Priya, from Bengaluru, who was also fourth in the individual 400m at the last Worlds.
And Rupal Chaudhary, who ran an impressive anchor leg, felt she had it in her to get the gold.
“If I had taken it a little easy at the start, I could have beaten the American (Kaylyn Brown),” said Rupal, from Jainpur village near Meerut, who was running in her first major international championship. The Americans took the gold after the close finish.
The team landed Cali just a day before the start of the Worlds, with visa and ticket issues delaying their departure from India, but the athletes were aware that they had to rest well on the 28-hour journey from Mumbai with layovers in Amsterdam and Bogota.
“We also lived life in Colombia time, sleeping and waking up according to that. That really helped,” said Priya.
“Had we landed a few days earlier, we could have won a better medal. We want to work hard now and go to the 2024 Paris Olympics and run the final there,” said Barath from Villupuram and a student at Chennai’s Loyola College.