The track and field events at the 36th National Games concluded on Tuesday with many positives for Indian athletics. Three national records were broken while several more Games records were set over five days of action at the IIT Gandhinagar campus.
No end of season trouble
There were doubts over the participation and form of athletes as the National Games made a late entry to the sporting calendar.
The sudden addition of the Games, organised in three months, left little time for the athletes – many of whom were getting into their offseason – to change their schedule.
The cancellation of the Asian Games, scheduled for September, helped.
“Technically the season would have concluded with the Asian Games. With the Asian Games postponed, the National Games took that spot in the training calendar,” AFI president Adille Sumariwala said.
For many athletes the National Games provided an opportunity to get a headstart before the 2023 season. Jeswin Aldrin secured qualification for the 2023 World Championships – the qualifying period began from July 31 – after winning the gold medal in men’s high jump with a season’s best of 8.26m (world qualification standard: 8.25m).
Three (plus one) National records
Over the course of five days, three national records were broken.
Rosy Meena Paulraj cleared a height of 4.20m to break the 8-year-old record of 4.15m held by V. Surekha in the women’s pole vault.
Siva Subramani (5.31m) eclipsed his own record of 5.30m in the men’s pole vault, set four years back.
Meanwhile, Ram Baboo clocked 2.36.34 to break the record in the men’s 35km race walk (2.40.16) by nearly four minutes.
There could well have been another national record in the final day of the competition, but Jyothi Yarraji’s time of 12.79s to win the 100m hurdles came with a wind assistance of 2.5 m/s, above the legal wind limit of 2.0m/s. 25 meet records were also set.
Youngsters getting closer
20-year-old Tejas Shirse of Maharashtra became the second fastest Indian in the men’s 110m hurdles. Shirse won gold in Gandhinagar with a time of 13.84s, just 0.01 seconds off Siddhanth Thingalaya’s meet record of 13.83. Thingalaya also holds the National Record (13.48s).
Santosh Kumar Tamilarasan’s time of 49.49s was the third best by an Indian in the 400m hurdles, while fellow 24-year-old Vithya Ramaraj’s time of 56.57 puts her third in the women’s 400m hurdles. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Ramaraj’s progress considering the national record (55.42) has been held by PT Usha since 1984.
Nandini Agasara, just 19, from Telangana was overshadowed by Yarraji in the 100m hurdles but came in second with a time of 13.38s, matching the timing of Anuradha Biswal that was finally broken after 20 years by Yarraji earlier this year. Sarvesh Kushare, too, moved to second in the all-time list for Indian high jumpers with a personal best of 2.27m.
It was hearting to see the emergence of strong competition in certain events.
In the women’s 100m hurdles, won by Yarraji with a time of 12.79s, her competitors clocked quick times as well.
Nandini Agasare came second with 13.38s while 21-year-old Moumita Mondal came in fourth with a PB of 14.47s.
The 35km racewalk event is also seeing the emergence of a budding rivalry between Baboo and Juned Khan. Baboo won the gold medal and broke the national record set by Khan at the national race walking championships a few months earlier.
Best athlete of the Games
Yarraji won two gold medals in the women’s 100m and 100m hurdles, while national records were set by Paulraj, Subramani and Baboo.
However, if we go by points based on IAAF calculation, the best performance at the National Games came from Jeswin. His jump of 8.26m would be the equivalent of 1197 points.
In contrast Yarraji would have scored 1178 points if her time of 12.79 in the 100m hurdles was ratified. The other top scorers would be Paulraj (1021), Subramani (1077) and Baboo (1129).
Jeswin’s jump, while coming in tough conditions, was also significant since it came on the back of another 8m plus performance in Europe.