Relay team decision should have made earlier: P T Usha

Pune: Legendary athlete P T Usha on Sunday said that ideally members of the gold-winning women`s 4x400m relay team should have known it beforehand who would be the running partners in the quartet.

There was confusion all around after the Athletics Federation of India tried to include Ashwini Akkunji in the relay team after her ban period for a dope offence ended on Wednesday.

The completion technical delegate, however, rejected India`s request for including Akkunji which led to 800m runner and Usha protege Tintu Luka was drafted into the team.

Though the quartet of Luka, M R Poovamma, Anu Mariam Jose and Nirmala won the gold today, Usha felt that the athletes should have known whether they are running or not together well in advance.

Luka was included in the relay team only yesterday and she ran in the second lap today.

"Ideally, the athletes should have known a week in advance so that they can train together and work out the team strategy," Usha said at a press conference.

Coach of the relay team, N Ramesh though intervened and said that it was not an issue as all the athletes were in top form after continuous training as well as taking part in national competitions.

"It was not an issue as all the quarter-milers were having training for their 400m races. They also had been training for the relay on baton exchange and other techniques," he said.

"All of them had just taken part in the National Inter-State Championships in Chennai and been training after that," he said, defending the decision to include Luka at the last minute.

"We decided on Luka as 800m runners have endurance and she knows how to cut in the lane," he added.

Regarding Luka having to settle with a bronze in 800m, Usha said her ward did not have an all-out race.

"Luka did not run an all-out race. Also, she committed technical errors as she ran fast in the first 200m and then slowed down later," Usha said.

"The strategy was to run the first 200m in around 28.5 secs but she ran it in around 27secs. Then she had to slow down a bit to preserve energy.

"But then she could not got the final kick at the home stretch. It would have been better had she run without thinking of any time target," said Usha.

Usha is still hoping that Luka will qualify for next month`s World Championships in Moscow and said that she would try to take part in some events in Europe in the next fortnight.

"Luka will have to take part in events in Europe in next 15 days to qualify for the World Championships. I am trying but the help from authorities, including the federation, is not forthcoming," she said.