The Tamil Nadu duo of Arokia Rajiv and Naganathan Pandi, who will carry the country’s hopes in the men’s 4x400m relay event of the Tokyo Olympic Games, are in high spirits. While Arokia of Tiruchy will make his second appearance at the Games, Naganathan from Ramanathapuram will turn out for the first time. The men’s 4x400m relay squad comprises Muhammed Anas, Noah Nirmal Tom and Amoj Jacob besides Arokia and Naganathan. Part of the team that made the cut for the Games in the National Inter-State Championship in Patiala last month, the Tamil Nadu men spoke to DT Next before leaving for Tokyo.
The Tokyo Olympics is not far away. How thrilled are you to represent the country at the Games?
Naganathan: The Olympics will be my first-ever international meet. This is what I worked towards in the last few years. It will be a completely new experience. I am extremely happy.
Arokia: We put in a lot of hard work to qualify for the Games. All of us in the team are filled with excitement. We just can’t wait to see how the competition will be.
Could you explain the kind of work you put in behind the scenes in the lead up to the Olympic Games?
Naganathan: Some of the athletes who will take part in individual events are already in Tokyo. They have been providing information on how the climate is. Keeping that in mind, we tried to practise in similar conditions. We selected 7:30am and 6pm as our training timings so that we will have a similar environment to what is there in Tokyo.
Arokia: We paid more attention to detail. After consulting with our coaches, we brought about a few changes to our game. We have also worked out new strategies.
Are you satisfied with the amount of competitive action in the past three months?
Arokia: We competed in a couple of events last month, one of which helped us qualify for the Games. Things would have been better had we played in more competitions. That wasn’t possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The India team was placed 13th in the ‘Road to Tokyo’ rankings while achieving qualification. Aware of what lies ahead, have you set any primary goals?
Naganathan: We have been together since March. We are in the best-possible shape. Even in the recent trials that were conducted, we were in perfect condition. All of us are confident of delivering the goods. The first objective is to make it to the final. After achieving that, we will give our best to win a medal for our country.
Arokia: We should avoid making mistakes. That is the most important thing. The men’s 4x400m relay is not a simple event. A small mistake could cost you something big. We have done our analysis. Hopefully, we execute the plans to perfection.
From the team which competed at the Rio Olympics, only Muhammad Anas and you remain. How does the current squad compare to the previous one?
Arokia: I have been in the national camp for the last 10 years. I feel that this team is the best we have ever had. The 2016 India team, which I was a part of, got disqualified. So, I hope to erase those memories and deliver a good show this time around.
The men’s 4x400m relay squad comprises five members. How good is the depth?
Naganathan: I think that all of us are equally good. We share a good rapport and co-ordinate well. Different factors such as form, adaptation to climatic conditions in Japan etc will be taken into account while selecting the four runners. Also, some people take time to get used to the food. Irrespective of who runs, the men’s team will put on a good show.