Unheralded Haryana athlete Kiran Pahal, on Thursday, surprised herself by qualifying for the Paris Olympics in the women’s 400m event, clocking a personal best time of 50.92 seconds on the opening day of the National Inter-State Championships here.

Kiran Pahal(AFI)

The automatic Olympics qualification mark in women’s 400m is 50.95 seconds, which the 23-year-old Kiran managed to breach to secure her berth at next month’s Games.

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She easily won her semifinal heat, finishing ahead of Devy Aniba Zala of Gujarat, who was a distant second with a timing of 53.44, while Kerala’s Sneha K came third by clocking 53.51s.

She had clocked a fast time of 52.33 seconds in the preliminary round heats earlier in the day. Her earlier personal best was 51.84 second which she had recorded in 2022.

“It’s a surprise for me. I never thought I would qualify for the Olympics and prepare for it. There is no bigger achievement than this,” Kiran said after her feat.

“I was under a bit of pressure in the preliminary heats as I was running after around one year. I knew that if I do well in heats, I will do better in the semifinals because you get better runners in the semifinals.”

Asked if she will go for the national record time of 50.79 seconds in the final to be held on Friday, she said, “I don’t want to say this beforehand but I feel I can run faster in the final than in the semifinals.”

The women’s 400m national record stands in the name of Hima Das since 2018.

Kiran, who trains in Rohtak outside national camp, was running in her first race of the year and she said she was not still fully fit after suffering multiple hamstrings. Her last 400m race was at the National Open Championships in October 2023 in Bengaluru where she clocked a disappointing 56.03s to crash out at the preliminary heats.

Hailing from Ganaur village in Sonepat district of Haryana, Kiran struggled a lot in her career as her family was in abject poverty.

Her father Om Prakash, who died in 2022 after a prolonged illness (lung problem), was a munshi at a Tehsil court in Sonepat district. Her mother Maya Devi is a home maker.

Her late father had backed her sporting dreams to the hilt despite social opprobrium in a male dominated society, and she broke down while talking to the reporters.

In other events, Ankita won the women’s 5000m final race 16 minute 10.31 seconds while in the corresponding men’s event, national record holder Gulveer Singh took the gold by bettering his own meet record time of 13:34.67.

His performance was well, however, well below his national record of 13:18.92 which she record in USA earlier this month.

Manju Bala won the women’s hammer throw gold by sending the iron ball to a distance of 63.66m.