Malappuram: The emergence of Mohammad Anas Yahiya, one of the six finalists for the Manorama Sports Star 2017, as India's best bet in the glamour event of quarter mile, was sudden and stunning.
Like any other kid in the locality, the ultimate dream of Anas during his school days was a job in the Gulf and a big house. It was a stint at the Style Sports Academy in his home village - Nilamel in Kollam district – which inspired the youngster to dream big and reach for the stars.
Now, Olympian Anas is the only Keralite who holds two national records in the senior men’s category. In June, 2016, he broke the national record in 400 meters at the Polish Athletics Championship clocking 45.40 second before being part of the 4x400m relay team that rewrote history at the Indian Grand Prix in Bengaluru after a month.
The 23-year-old Anas grew up at Valayidam in Nilamel and was initiated into athletics when he was in Class V. Although he was focused and hardworking, he had to wait till Plus Two to win a national-level medal. Anas was in Class X when his father Yahya, who was working in the Gulf, died of heart attack. It was big blow to the family, but his mother Sheena encouraged Anas to pursue his dreams.
Anas has been on a golden run during the past two seasons. He qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics and became the third Indian athlete to take part in the 400m event at the Games, after Milkha Singh (1956 and 1960) and K M Binu (2004).
He also won a double at the Asian Athletics Championships, clinching gold in both 400m and 4x400m relay. Anas is now preparing for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast (Australia, April 4 to 15) and the Asian Games in Jakarta (Indonesia, August 18 to September 2).
The immense talent in the youngster was spotted by former national 400m runner B Ansar, who was the head coach at the Style Sports Academy in Nilamel. The first major event attended by Anas, who used to compete both in long jump and 400m events, was the state school athletics meet, where he represented Mattappally Memorial Higher Secondary School, Nilamel.
He joined Mar Basil HSS in Kothamangalam after completing Class X, a decision which proved career changing. After winning bronze in the 400m race at the state school meet and securing a spot in the state 4x400m relay team which eventually won gold at the national meet, he gave up jumping events and started focusing on running on the advice of physical education teacher K S Sibi.
Anas did his graduation at Sree Krishna College, Guruvayur, and during that period he hogged limelight in the quarter-mile event at intercollegiate meets under the Calicut University and all-India inter-university athletics championships.
Those performances helped Anas get selected to the Kerala Sport Council’s ‘Elite Scheme’ and come under the tutelage of coach P B Jayakumar. At the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, his skills were fine-tuned by 400m Indian team coach by N A Mohammed Kunhi.
Overall, 2017 was great year for the lanky quarter-miler. His major wins in the season included gold in the third leg of the Asian Grand Prix Series held in Chinese Taipei in May, record-breaking performance (45.32 sec) at the third leg of the Indian Grand Prix at Delhi in the same month, gold at the inter-services meet, and a golden double in 400m and 4x400m relay at the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneswar. The 400m gold was the first by an Indian in 40 years at the continental meet.
He went on to represent the country at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the 2017 London World Championships. Anas will be seen in action in the upcoming Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. His decision to opt out of the national camp did not go down well with the Athletics Federation of India, but these things don’t distract him from focusing on his goals.
If you feel Anas is the right candidate to be the Manorama Sports Star 2017, vote for him in the following format: BST<space>C.
The SMS should be sent to 56767123 (SMS rates apply) in the prescribed format.
For online voting, log on to www.manoramaonline.com/sportsstar