Under new Cuban coach’s guidance, talented quarter-miler Priya Mohan aims Asian Games medal

New Delhi: Back on the track after a hamstring injury, the talented Priya Habbathanahalli Mohan aims to become the fastest quarter-miler of the country once again with an aim to bag a medal in the upcoming Asian Games under guidance of new Cuban coach Anier Garcia.

Priya emerged the fastest women’s 400m runner in 2021 with a time of 52.77 seconds when she was just 18 and competing at the junior level then. Two years later and after failing to win individual medals in two world U-20 championships, she said she needs a new beginning.

Two months back, she parted ways with her long-time coach Arjun Ajay who spotted her during a national schools meet in 2018 and is now training at the Inspire Institute of Sport at Bellary in Karnataka under Cuba’s Anier Garcia, the 2000 Olympic 110m hurdles champion.

“I have had ups and downs in these four years (of my career). Once you go up, you have to come down. That fall is important in an athlete’s life because it teaches you the lessons required in order to make a stronger comeback,” Priya told PTI in an interaction.

“I have started with a new coach. I feel this is a new beginning. We have many more targets to achieve. I will try to become the fastest quarter-miler in 2023, try and win a medal in Asian Games but can’t promise.” The bronze medal winner at the 2018 Asian Games had clocked 52.63 seconds.

The 20-year-old has a personal best of 52.37s which she had clocked last year. She was part of the bronze winning Indian 4×400 mixed relay team in the 2021 World U-20 Championships and the silver-winning team in 2022.

A medal, however, eluded her in the individual 400m race as he finished fourth in 2021 and failed to qualify for the final round in 2022.

Priya suffered a hamstring injury in December last year and she said she is still not completely fit. She won the 400m gold in the recent Federation Cup Senior National Championships in Ranchi with a time of 53.40s, after original winner Aishwarya Mishra was disqualified for lane infringement.

“I was not 100 per cent fit, that’s why I could not work too much on my sprints. I ran the race only on the basis of my endurance, that’s why the finishing part is stronger,” said the talented athlete from Karnataka.

“I was not satisfied with my timing at the Federation Cup. If I work on the starting part of my races, I can produce a better timing.” Priya also won the 400m event at the U-20 Indian Open 400m Championships in Thiruvananthapuram in March with a time of 53.55s.

“I taped (my leg) and ran. It was completely fine with the tapping. The only thing was that I could not work well on my sprint part so the timing was not that great.

“I am focusing mainly on the National Inter-State Championships (June 15-19 in Bhubaneswar) to produce a better timing. I will be completely fit by then. After that there is also the Asian Championships in Thailand (July 12-16).

Her 53.40s timing while winning gold at the Federation Cup was better than the Asian Championships mark 0f 53.54s set by the Athletics Federation of India.

“We earlier had plan to run races in Europe in July first week but now there is too less time to do so after Asian Championships. So, we will see, I may run a few races abroad after Asian Championships.” She said she is working with her new coach on a little bit of change in her running technique.

“Hard work is there but we working more on technique and my action, just trying to change a little bit, to run with high knee and long strides which cuts down distance. This can help me cover more distance. That is the only change my coach has done till now.

“My new coach understands me better, the communication is good between us. He has a aggressive approach, he always pushes me to my limit. He makes me work harder and pushes me mentally,” said Priya who is doing her first year post graduation (MSC) in Mathematics first year at Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru.