Priya Mohan ran 52.77 seconds last year, which earned her a tight fourth place at the Junior World Championships in Nairobi and was India’s best 400m time in 2021.
PRIYA MOHAN EXPERIENCED SINGING, DANCING, KEYBOARD PLAYING, AND EVEN PAINTING. “I tried them all out because my parents wanted me to, but athletics has always been my first and only love,” she explains.
Today, the 19-year-old is at the center of an Indian athletics frenzy. Not just because she recently defeated India’s fastest runner Dutee Chand. By biomechanics specialists, she is being praised as a future world-class athlete with extraordinary muscle leverages.
“We have tested over 2000 elite athletes at our center, but her readings are far superior to those of any other athlete who has come through our doors,” says Anthony Chacko, director of the Karnataka state-run Centre for Sports Science (CSS).
“Her torque (the amount of strength and force generated by the legs and muscles surrounding the thoracic spine) is approximately 480 Newton metres, while the majority of elite athletes we examined had torque values in the 280 Nm range. She has an incredibly high rate of healing. If she can avoid injury, she has the potential to develop into a world-class athlete,” Chacko said.
When running, the four limbs, as well as the muscles surrounding the spine – shoulder extensors, hip flexors, lateral spine rotators, and shoulder flexors – as well as the leg muscles – glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves – all contribute to the clockwise and counter-clockwise torques necessary for speed generation. Priya’s running torque provides a solid foundation for pace practice.
Performance assessments were completed at the center to determine strength, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and adaptability. “Her peak torque, relative peak power, and recovery heart rate were far superior to those required for that sport. We also required her to undergo a recovery intervention involving hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which aided in her fatigue reduction,” Chacko adds. Along with Priya’s coach Arun Ajay, center experts expect “much room for growth” for someone who began the season with a time of 52.37 seconds in the 400m — and is now within striking distance of the national record of 50.79 seconds.
She had already beaten M R Poovamma, a seasoned quarter-miler with three Asian Games gold medals, three times on the domestic circuit. Last Sunday at the Khelo India Games, she established her credentials by defeating Dutee Chand in the 200m – an event in which Priya is not even a specialist.
And, while the teenager’s personal best is still well short of the national standard of 50.79 seconds, the athlete has made impressive development after joining coach Ajay in 2018. “At the time, my 400m time was 1 minute 43 seconds. I was completely unaware of what stretching exercises were. “I was only a high school athlete,” Priya explains.
However, Ajay recognized Priya’s potential. And he was proven to be correct. With only a few months of preparation, she finished fourth in the 400m (56.46 seconds) and took home a silver medal in the medley relay at the 2019 Youth Asian Championships in Hong Kong.
Ajay believes Priya is capable of breaking the 51-second barrier this season. The possibilities are endless from there.
This month, Priya, who is sponsored by JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sports, will fly to Europe to train and compete in three Continental Tour Meets — May 15 (France), May 22 (Italy), and May 28 (Spain) — a period that will help her iron out a number of running problems.
“She is still quite young, and we are not overloading her with training at the moment. We don’t want to exhaust her. She is still in the process of being completed. Her starts are not as explosive, and she has yet to master the art of pacing her run. However, these are areas where she will improve with training and increased exposure,” Ajay explains.
Priya’s load-bearing capacity was demonstrated last year at the Junior Worlds in Nairobi, where she ran five races in three days, including the bronze-winning 4400 mixed relay.
“We monitored her heart rate during intense training sessions. We monitored her heart rate for the final 100 meters and found it to be around 60bpm, which is excellent. Additionally, this means she can quickly increase her effort without risking injury. Priya also outperformed other athletes in the cognitive tests we conducted,” adds Chacko, a former Ranji cricketer who has played alongside Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
When Priya learned she would have to compete in the Federation Cup under the Kozhikode sun last month, she trained in Bengaluru at 12 p.m. “We were out with her, testing her, and she never complained about being tired or in need of a break,” her coach explains.
“The numbers we obtain from tests are meaningless if the athlete lacks desire. “Priya is the ideal combination of statistics and passion,” Chacko explains.
Priya claims that her father, who is a judge in the Lokayukta’s office, and mother began supporting her on the track in the intention of obtaining a medical seat under the sports quota. “They believe that athletes are not qualified for high-level positions. They are still concerned about my employment prospects,” says Priya, who is taking a BCom at Jain University in Bengaluru.