India has only ever had two runners compete in 400m at the Olympics. The legendary Milkha Singh was the first to take part in this event at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he came tantalizingly close to clinching the bronze, missing it by a whisker. KM Binu was the second in 2004 at Athens. Muhammed Anas will become only the third athlete from India to compete in 400m when he takes the field at the Rio Olympics.
Besides the 400m event, he will also be participating in 4x400m relay.
Anas realized his Olympic dream while participating in the Polish National Championship at Bydgoszcz, where he clocked 45.40 seconds in 400m, which was the qualifying mark for Rio. In the process, he created a new national record as well.
Anas, born on September 17, 1994, hails from a nondescript town called Nilamel in Kerala.
When Anas was studying at Mattapally Memorial Higher Secondary School, he was introduced to athletics before he turned 10, by former athlete turned coach Ansar B.
"I realised his potential at a young age. I took him to Mar Basil HSS Kothamangalam for Plus Two. That was the time also he lost his father. At Mar Basil, they tried him in 400m and 400m hurdles," physical education teacher and mentor Ansar told the Times of India.
Thereafter, Kerala State Sports council’s coach Jaikumar took him under his wing and made him go through the paces.
His first success came at the 2015 National Games where he won a silver as part of Kerala’s 4x400m relay squad. Thereafter, at the Federation Cup National Athletics Championships in April 2016, he bagged another silver in the same event. More recently, at the 3rd Indian Grand Prix held in Bengaluru, he was part of the relay team that won gold, creating a new national record.
Jaikumar said, "It's only a matter of time Anas will run sub-44 seconds. I personally feel, Anas should base his training in the US soon after he returns from Rio. He might need sponsors but by the time the next 2020 Olympics is held in Tokyo, my ward will be a strong contender for a medal. In Asia, his supremacy will be unchallenged. I just pray that he should remain injury free.”
While Anas is not expected to win a medal in 400m, he could very well create history in the 4x400m relay event where the men’s team has already recorded one of the fastest times of the season this year.
(India's Olympic Hope is a series of profiles of south India's Olympic participants of Rio 2016)