CHANDIGARH: On June 21, Patiala girl Harmilan Kaur Bains was inconsolable when she narrowly missed out of the qualifying mark of 4:04.20 for the Tokyo Olympics in the women's 1500m event. Batting stomach cramps, Harmilan clocked an impressive 4:08.27 at the Indian Grand Prix (IGP) 4. A week later, the heat in Patiala took a toll on her event, but despite that she ended up with two gold medals (800m & 1500m) at the Senior National Championships. She knew her Tokyo dreams were over, but vowed to come back stronger.
On Thursday, Harmilan made a grand comeback to the track as she eclipsed Sunita Rani's 19-year-old National Record on the second day of the 60th National Open Athletics Championships at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Warangal.
#NationalRecord Alert🚨Harmilan Bains set the new 1500m National Record with a time of 4:05.39 at the 60th Nationa… https://t.co/WSdLTaoasX— SAI Media (@Media_SAI) 1631798057000
Continuing her growing prowess in her pet women's 1500m event, the 23-year-old metric miler from Punjab clocked 4:05.39 to erase the mark set by Sunita at 4:06.03 in the Asian Games in Busan in 2002. She also shattered OP Jaisha's Meet Record of 4:11.83 set in Delhi in 2006.
Harmilan, who had shifted her training base to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh due to the Covid-19 protocols at the NIS, Patiala, has shown rapid progress in the past one year, improving from 4:14.68 in the Khelo India University Games in Bhubaneswar last year to 4:08.70 and 4:08.27 at the Federation Cup (March 16) and Indian Grand Prix 4 (June 21) respectively, in Patiala.
Despite clinching the gold with the National Record, Harmilan's effort narrowly fell short of the 1500m qualification mark of 4.04.20 for the World Championships in 2022. For now, the youngster is content with the record.
19-year-old National Record broken by #Harmilan at #NOACwarangal today when she won the Women's 1500m final with a… https://t.co/4rB7FGl4n1— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) 1631795021000
"Yeah, that (World Championship qualifying mark) was at the back of my mind, but it's all God's plans, we have to abide by whatever He plans," Harmilan told TOI after her feat.
"For Tokyo, after the second wave, we have had only two tournaments to make it to the Olympics, so there was an added pressure, also the heat in Patiala was unbearable in June. But I am happy with my performance today, breaking a 19-year-old record, and it was at the same Busan Asian Games, where my mother (Madhuri Singh) took the 800m silver," she added with a smile.
Born to former middle-distance runners Amandeep Bains (South Asian Games medallist in 1500m) and Madhuri Singh (women's 800m silver medallist in Busan), Harmilan has stretched her unbeaten run to eight national-level 1500m races since January 2020.
Coming to the other events of the day, Andhra Pradesh's Naresh Kumar (10.30s) and Delhi's Tarandeep Kaur (11.50s) took the honours as the fastest male and female athlete of the meet by winning the 100m dash. The race produced personal bests for Assam's Amlan Borgohain and Harjit Singh (Services) with times of 10.34 seconds for both, a photo finish separating them by six-thousandths of a second to secure the silver medal for the former.
Delhi teenager Taranjeet, who was knocked down by a car and broke a collarbone just over two years ago, claimed the title of the fastest woman of the meet with a blazing run in a personal best time of 11.50 seconds to leave the seasoned Archana Suseendran (Tamil Nadu) in her wake.
The men's 1500m race saw an upset of sorts as little-known Parvej Khan (Haryana) stunned the two-time Asian Athletics Championships medalist Ajay Kumar Saroj (Railways).