India’s athletics team for Rio Olympics will be reduced by two from 38 announced earlier to 36 now as the world body IAAF has told the national federation to include both the men’s and women’s 400m individual runners in the 4x400m relay teams if they are to run at the Games.Mohammad Anas and Nirmala Sheoran qualified for Rio in men’s and women’s individual 400m races while India also made the Olympics cut in the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay races.Athletics Federation of India had named six-member squads for the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay races, excluding Anas and Sheoran under the impression that both of them can actually run even if they are not included in the relay teams as they have qualified in individual events.But the IAAF has now intimated to AFI that under the new rules, the athlete who has qualified in the individual 400m race will also have to be included in the relay team if he is to actually run. Otherwise, he will not be able to run in the relay.The AFI will naturally want both Anas and Sheoran to run and so the federation has now decided to name both of them plus five others each in the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams. This will bring down the athletics for Rio from 38 to 36.“We have got intimation from IAAF, saying that under new IOC/IAAF rules, the athlete who qualified in individual event will have to be included in the team of the corresponding relay race if he/she has to actually run (in the relay also),” an AFI source told PTI.Some AFI officials expressed surprise at the change of rules all of a sudden, saying that earlier it was allowed in all international competitions to name a sixth athlete and then bring in the one who qualified in the individual event later on to actually run.The AFI had named either of Jithin Paul/Lalit Mathur as the sixth runner for men’s 4x400m relay and either of Priyanka Panwar/Anu Raghavan as the sixth runner for women’s 4x400m relay, but it is now expected that they will be dropped from the athletics team for Rio.Interestingly, the source said that Tintu Luka can run in the 4x400m relay race in Rio as she qualified in the 800m race (individual). In the last few years, Luka has been in the Indian women’s 4x400m relay races as her first lap timing is as good as that of any quarter-miler.“Luka’s case is different as she had qualified in the 800m. So, she can run in the 4x400m relay race. It might be a bit strange rule but we have abide by it,” the source added.
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