Machettira Raju Poovamma © Getty Images
Machettira Raju Poovamma is an Asian Games Gold Medallist © Getty Images

New Delhi: Asian Games Gold Medallist Machettira Raju Poovamma will spearhead the Indian women 4x400m relay team’s chase for an Olympics berth in Rio at the PTS Athletics Meetings in Samorin (Slovakia) on Saturday. Earlier, this morning, a five-member relay team along with the coaches and a support staff left for Vienna from Warsaw after a two-hour drive from the Olympics Training Centre in Spala. India has a rich legacy at the Asian Games in the women’s 4x400m relay where they are the back-to- back champions for the last four editions and are also the reigning AG record-holder in the event. The 4x400m women relay team also reached the Olympics finals in 2004 under the training of current foreign coach Iuriy Ogorodnik.

Besides Poovamma (personal best (PB) individual 51.73sec), the other athletes in the relay event who will take the field in the Samorin meeting are double gold medallist in the 2010 Asian Games and member of the gold-medal winning relay team in the 2010 CWG Ashwini Akkunji (PB individual 52.80sec), Anilda Thomas (PB individual 52.40sec), Jauna Murmu (PB individual 52.75sec) and Debashree Majumdar (PB individual 53.50sec).

Meanwhile, Jithin Paul will be participating in the men’s 400m hurdles event. As per information received from the Indian camp in Spala, the Indian women’s relay team will be up against hosts Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Later, on June 11-12, both the men and women’s relay teams are scheduled to participate in the 2nd International Sprint and Relay, Erzurum (Turkey). As per the IAAF regulations, only the top-16 teams will participate in the relay events at Rio. The finalists from last year’s World Relays in Bahamas, including the top-3, USA, Jamaica and Britain have secured automatic entry filling the first eight spots.