Manorama Sports Star 2023: Muhammad Ajmal's runaway success story

Muhammad Ajmal
Muhammad Ajmal has been a consistent performer.

Two years ago, India's 4x400m men's relay team was ranked 25th in the World Athletics Rankings. The country made rapid strides in 2023 and finished as one of the top four teams in the world at the end of the year. V Muhammad Ajmal, one of the six nominees for the Manorama Sports Star Award 2023, has played a vital role in making India a force to reckon with in relay events at the global level.  

With the Paris 2024 Olympics approaching, the men's 4x400m relay quartet has emerged as one of the brightest medal hopes for India. If their recent performances are any indication, it will not be surprising to see them challenging the dominance of Jamaica and the United States in Paris. 

Over the years, there has been an intense fight among India's quartermilers to secure a spot in the national men's 4x400m relay team. Although the team management has tried out different combinations in the last two years, Ajmal has been able to keep his place in the squad. It is a testimony to the quality and consistency he possesses. 

When India shattered the Asian record, clocking 2:59.05s to qualify for their maiden finals of the World Championships in Budapest in August 2023, Ajmal, who ran the third lap, emerged as the fastest among the four with a timing of 44.17s. In the final too the team finished the race under three minutes. In the history of Indian athletics, the men's 4x400m relay team has managed to finish the race under three minutes only twice and both the instances came in Budapest. 

Ajmal also had the best timing among the quartet when India clinched gold at the Asian Games at Hangzhou, China, last year. He was in red-hot form when India picked up the silver medal in the men's 4x400m relay at the 25th Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok last year.

A native of Cherpulassery in Palakkad district, Ajmal was also a member of India's 4x400m mixed relay team which won silver at Hangzhou. 

From football to athletics

Football was Ajmal's first love. While studying at the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in Cherpulassery, he had represented the district at various state-level championships. Ajmal, who used to run with blistering pace with the ball at his feet, caught the attention of the physical education teachers at the Kalladi Higher Secondary School at Kumaramputhur. Heeding their advice, he switched to athletics while doing Plus One and it turned out to be a life-changing decision.   

Individual feats

Even as Ajmal has made the country proud with his exploits in relay events, he has won several honours in the 400m individual event as well. Currently, he is the top-ranked quartermiler in India. Last year, He produced a stunning race at the Asian Athletics Championships to register his career best timing of 44.36s. 

Apart from making it to the finals of the men's 400m event at the Hangzhou Asian Games, the 25-year-old has won several medals at national-level competitions last year.

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