ESPN India awards jury speak - Ashwini Nachappa explains her choices

Ashwini Nachappa was a part of the iconic Indian women's 4×400m relay team. ESPN Photo

A precursor to the good news athletics would bring us at the Asian Games came in July last year. Hima Das was at the heart of it. Her gold medal at the U20 World Championship, the first by any female track athlete, marked her out as a name for the future.

She lived up to it at the Asian Games with a timing of 50.79, her best so far. But the athlete who has announced himself as a serious medal contender for Tokyo 2020 has to be Neeraj Chopra.

His consistency at every major international event last year is not something we see often in the Indian athletics scenario. Of course, there's still a lot of time between now and the Olympics and we have to bear in mind the vagaries of sport so I wouldn't stick my neck out and jump to any Olympic predictions yet.

I wouldn't be surprised though if he returned with a medal.

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The other special sporting moment for me from last year was our women winning the 4x400 gold at the Asian Games.

It's a race we've traditionally dominated and just the way we strategized it - taking a gamble with our fastest quarter-miler Hima running the first lap instead of the anchor leg and our most experienced runner MR Poovamma in the second - allowed us to open up at least a 30-yard lead halfway through over Japan and Bahrain, and fetched us our fifth consecutive gold.

Also, it's no longer just the women, our men's relay team too have propped themselves up on the big stage with their Asian Games silver medal. Particularly, Muhammad Anas' blistering third leg run, pulling ahead from fourth to second position and Arokia Rajiv keeping up the momentum in the anchor is more reason why we should really focus on the quarter-mile race.

It's a distance Indians have always excelled in and though we have some exciting talents like Dutee Chand in sprint, measuring up to world standards in the event can be a major challenge.

(As told to Susan Ninan)