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Paris 2024: Focus on Deepanshi, Kiran Pahal as they look to secure Olympic berth in 400m relay

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Paris Olympics is a month away and since India has surprisingly qualified for the women’s 4x400m relay (from the recent World Relays in Bahamas), there has been a desperate search for quality quartermilers to strengthen the team to Paris.

The country’s fastest quartermiler, Himanshi Malik, virtually came out of nowhere and finished 2024 on a high, with a time of 51.76s, after the Inter-State National champion Anjali Devi (51.48s) failed a dope test.

However, she had a knee surgery earlier this year and is yet to return to competition.

With the Inter-State Nationals, the important Olympic selection meet, coming up in Panchkula later this month, a couple of girls have quietly thrown their hats into the ring with an eye on the Paris relay team.

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Deepanshi, who skipped all the National meets held earlier, clocked the country’s fastest 400m this year (52.10s) at the Haryana State Championships in Karnal early this month.

This was a stunning improvement for the 21-year-old, whose previous best (53.50s) came at the 2022 Chennai Inter-State Nationals where she finished fifth. Last year, her best performance was 54.18s at the Goa National Games (out in heats).

Deepanshi, who trains under Himanshi’s coach Ramesh Sindhu in Rohtak, appears to be ready to shine at the Inter-State Nationals in her home state, Haryana.

“I expect her to clock 51.8 or 51.9s at Panchkula and join the national camp after that. She’s tall, around 5’10”, and her stride length is long,” Sindhu, who has been coaching Deepanshi for the last six years, told Sportstar from Rohtak on Monday evening.

He explained that she had missed the earlier competitions this year as she was not fit.

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Meanwhile, 23-year-old former international Kiran Pahal, who had been very inconsistent after clocking an impressive 51.84s in 2022, appears to have regained her old form.

She clocked 52.13s while finishing behind Deepanshi at the State meet, which will now push Tamil Nadu’s Vithya Ramraj (personal best 52.25s in March) – the country’s No. 1 this year before the Haryana Championships – to the third spot in the India 400m list this season.

Ramraj ran in the first Olympic qualification race at the World Relays but did not run in the team that made the cut for Paris through the second qualification race.

Deepanshi’s and Pahal’s rise should keep the others on their toes in Panchkula.

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