Last year, sprinter Amlan Borgohain was hailed as India’s fastest man alive with national records registered in both 100m and 200m sprint races.
But for Amlan, 2023 has been one of the toughest years both on and off the track. His mother is battling health issues, while he has had a mixed year on the track. This is the only year of Amlan’s career where he has failed to improve on his timing.
His timings in the men’s 200m sprint this year have been 21.20, 20.78, 20.85, 20.83, 20.66, 21.25, 20.96, 21.37, 21.28, 20.71, 21.00, 20.57, 20.55, 21.08, 21.03, 20.98 seconds, respectively.
In fact, he failed to qualify for the Asian Games after the timing of 20.71s in the men’s 200m at the Inter State Athletics Championships, failing to meet the cut-off point set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) (the cut-off time was 20.61s.
Initially, after the race, he broke down in front of the cameras before getting up and wiping his tears away. He turned around his bib number to show ‘Mom’ written on it for his mother, who is undergoing dialysis.
“If I am sad here and if it’s live on TV, I didn’t want mom to see. So I will be happy and smiling instead,” Amlan said back in June. “My mom has been sick for 6-7 months and when I got the call during my Europe training trip, telling me that my mom is unwell, I got depressed.”
Amlan said his coaching team helped him get him back to his best. Two months later, he went to Chengdu for the World University Games and posted improved timings of 20.57s and 20.55s in the semifinals and the finals.
The AFI then made a U-turn in adding his name to the Asian Games athletics squad after he breached the cut-off mark, becoming only the first Indian male to qualify for the Asian Games in sprint events (100m or 200m) since 2010.
However, the last time on the list – 20.98s – came in the final of the Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium on Monday, which meant he could only finish sixth.
The timing was below his national record of 20.52s he had achieved in April last year. If he had run a similar time, he would have been India’s first Asiad gold medallist in 200m in 46 years.
Among India’s medal-filled (22 and counting) campaign in track and field, where it is set to better its best haul since the inaugural edition, Amlan’s sixth place will likely be long forgotten.
But putting the result in context, the sixth place result was India’s best finish in men’s sprint events at the Asiad this millennium.
Suresh Sathya finished sixth in the 2010 Asian Games but was disqualified after World Athletics confirmed he had tested positive for doping.
While disappointed, Amlan wanted to make a case for himself against the critics.
“People in India will say you ran 20.98 but… nobody will know how much hard work goes into this. I just want to say to those people back in India I can beat them anytime and anywhere. Just work hard and don’t concentrate on me. I want this medal more than anyone. Just give support, don’t hate. 20.98 is a good timing as per Indian standards,” he shot back.
But he was remorseful about the people he let down by not claiming a medal.
“Federation saw some talent in me but I disappointed them. Now, I should accept the fact and move on,” said Amlan.
“She [mother] won’t be happy with the performance. You have good days, bad days, bad timing and good timing. If I had got this medal, it would have been good for me.”
Amlan, whose mother requires a kidney transplant, kept reiterating, that it’s now time for him to accept the result and move forward to help his family.
“She’s a dialysis patient. It is ongoing. We need money for the transplant. Sport is the only way to earn money for me. It is what it is,” he said.