Athletics: Muncherji's 400m spot in jeopardy

Zubin Muncherji, who broke the 40-year-old national 400m mark in 2014, left for the University of Indiana last month and did not clock any official times before Thursday's closing window for SEA Games selection.
Zubin Muncherji, who broke the 40-year-old national 400m mark in 2014, left for the University of Indiana last month and did not clock any official times before Thursday's closing window for SEA Games selection.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Lack of official timings to cost him a place for SEA Games but relay berth is still a possibility

National men's 400m record holder Zubin Muncherji will likely not feature in the event at the Aug 19-30 SEA Games as Singapore Athletics has not nominated the 20-year-old for consideration by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

This is because he did not clock any official times before Thursday's closing window, his mother Archana told The Straits Times.

Muncherji left for the University of Indiana last month to start his freshman year, after reaching his national service operationally ready date (ORD) in the same month. The school competes in the top division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Muncherji told ST that he was advised against competing in any meets last year owing to NCAA eligibility rules.

On June 12, he clocked 47.5 seconds during a hand-timed trial - where the starting and/or stopping mechanisms are operated by humans and hence considered to be prone to error - but the video of his effort did not meet SA's criteria for qualification.

The qualifying mark for the men's 400m at the Kuala Lumpur Games is 47.08sec, pegged to the bronze-medal time from the last Games here in 2015. Then, Muncherji posted a season-best 47.71sec in the heats, before clocking 47.87sec to finish sixth in the final.

He broke the 40-year-old national 400m mark in 2014, clocking 47.29sec to shatter Godfrey Jalleh's 1974 mark of 47.4sec.

ST understands that SA, which governs track and field here, has submitted an appeal with a final list of athletes' names to the SNOC, and Muncherji is being considered only for the 4x400m relay.

SA's technical director Volker Herrmann confirmed this, saying: "We appealed for him to be part of the 4x400m relay, but to be fair we can't nominate him for the individual event because he doesn't have an electronic time.

"We have to follow our qualification (criteria) and be objective."

Muncherji admitted he was "quite disappointed" with SA's decision, but vowed to continue working hard. "It's still the SEA Games so I won't be training any less hard, I will put my best foot forward and I'm not going to let this get in the way (of my preparation)," he said.

While he is still being considered for the relay event, reigning SEA Games women's 200m champion Shanti Pereira's participation in the women's 4x100m relay appears to be in doubt. The Singapore quartet were third at the Thailand Open in 45.65sec on Thursday, just 0.24sec off the national record and SEA Games qualifying mark.

But ST understands that there is a cloud over Shanti's place in the foursome because she is undecided about going for next month's centralised training camp in Taiwan.

Pereira and her coach Margaret Oh have been warned that the sprinter would be dropped from the relay squad for the biennial Games if she skips the camp.

Herrmann told ST: "The Taiwan training camp is compulsory for the relay team as it's one of the most important training stages of the year.

"The relay is a team event - if you have a football or floorball team and a player is not part of the main preparation, they're not a part of the team."

The German said he has yet to hear from Oh and Pereira if the latter is going to Taiwan, but is hoping for a "positive answer".

Pereira, who owns the national 100m (11.80sec) and 200m (23.60sec) records and has qualified for both, said she did not wish to comment any further on the matter.

As the fastest runner in the relay - she also won the 100m bronze at the 2015 Games - her absence would be a blow to the team's medal chances.

SA president Ho Mun Cheong believes the feuding parties should resolve the matter themselves, as such disagreements are "not healthy" for the athletes.

He told ST: "They have to talk it over and try to resolve it, but I will intervene if they cannot do so."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Muncherji's 400m spot in Jeopardy'. Print Edition | Subscribe