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ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

THE fact that India was able to make a clean sweep in the men's shot put event of the Asian Grand Prix athletics meet, despite the absence of Shakti Singh, shows the depth of talent available in this country. This event has been dominated by Indians for a long period and one of the few encouraging aspects about the Indian athletics scene is that at least in the shot put, the country has not lost its position as far as the Asian level is concerned.

Badar Aman Al Fulazi (No. 135) of Kuwait wins the men's 400m hurdles. Kazakhstan's Yevgeniy Meleshenko (right) came second, while Taipei's Chen Tien Wen took the bronze.-K. RAMESHBABU

The burly 28-year-old Bahadur Singh has emerged as one of the top men in this event now and seems to have gained in confidence after a few victories over the National record holder Shakti Singh. The latter did not turn up for the Asian GP at Hyderabad for reasons unknown. Some said he was concentrating on the Asian Games and was reluctant to disrupt his preparations.

Bahadur stated later that he was confident of getting the gold at Hyderabad. He was of the opinion that the competition here was not of very high standard. He said the only person who could have put up a stiff fight would have been Saad Bilal Mubarak of Qatar whose best was a formidable 19.65 mts. But Mubarak was also absent and so it was not really very difficult for Bahadur, Navpreet and Kuldeep to take first, second and third places respectively. The only foreigner in this event - Wang Zhiyong of China - was fourth followed by Jaiveer Singh. Bahadur is now aiming for a gold in the Asian Games to be held later this year.

India's only other gold came in the men's 3000 metres. The winner was 29-year-old T. A. Sivananda, a Railway employee from Karnataka, who showed an amazing burst of speed to overtake the leader Eduardo Buenavista of Philippines in the last lap. The Indian runner was carrying a minor calf injury but that did not hamper him as he powered his way to the finish in great style.

With not much competition, India's Bahadur Singh had it easy in the shot put event.-K. RAMESHBABU

A lot of hope rested on India's K. M. Beenamol in the women's 400 metres. She was up against the Sri Lankan ace Damayanthi Darsha, gold winner at the Jakarta meet two years ago. But many were hoping that in Hyderabad Beenamol would get the better of the Sri Lankan. However, Damayanthi's tremendous determination and fighting spirit eventually saw her edge out Beenamol in a very keenly contested race.

Damayanthi was in lane four and Beenamol in lane five. Thus it was easy to see the absorbing tussle between the two. Damayanthi went flat out from the start and at the end of the first curve was abreast of Beenamol. By the middle of the back straight Damayanthi had established a two-metre lead. But on the final curve Beenamol turned on the heat. Coming into the home straight Damayanthi was struggling to retain her lead and for a few seconds it looked like Beenamol would surge ahead.

Korea's Lee Jae Hoon (No. 118) pipped India's K. M. Binu (right) at the finish in the men's 800m.-K. RAMESHBABU

The crowd was on its feet cheering Beenamol as she fought her way up but it was at that stage that Damayanthi seemed to put in extra effort and by sheer will power fought off Beenamol's challenge till she was able to sprawl across the finish line. An exhausted Damayanthi lay for several minutes on the track after the tremendous battle had ended.

Damayanthi later won the women's 100 metres fairly comfortably. In the early stages of her career Damayanthi was a pure sprinter and she showed that she still had enough speed to overcome this level of competition. Poonam Tomar and Saraswati Saha of India took the silver and bronze respectively.

Apart from Damayanthi's fine double there was not much to cheer about for the strong Sri Lankan squad from whom at least one more gold was expected. The top athlete in the men's section, Sugath Tillakeratne, one of the best quarter milers in Asia today, had to be content with the second spot in his event. Kuwait's Fawzy Dahesh Al-Shammari won in a good time of 45.42 secs. Sugath could not come anywhere near his top form and took the silver with a time of 45.73 while another well-known Sri Lankan runner, Rohan Pradeep Kumara, took the bronze.

In the men's 800 metres K. M. Binu, one of India's bright prospects, recorded his best-ever time of 1 min, 47.52 secs but could get only silver as he was edged out near the finish by Korean Lee Jae Hoon.

In the keenly contested women's 400m event, Sri Lankan Damayanthi Darsha (right) had to put in that extra bit to overcome a spirited challenge from India's K. M. Beenamol (No. 184).-K. RAMESHBABU

The men's 100 metres was won by 26-year-old Reanchai Sriharwong of Thailand in a relatively slow time of 10.55 secs. The Thailand runner's personal best is 10.29 secs. India's Clifford Joshua and Anand Menezes bagged the silver and bronze respectively. Anil Kumar's absence due to injury was badly felt. Perhaps India could have picked up another gold.

In all, India bagged two golds, seven silvers and seven bronzes. It was a satisfactory performance but one has to keep in mind that several top stars were not present perhaps due to the modest prize money available here. But as far as Asian athletics was concerned it was a good beginning.

The results:

Men: 400m hurdles: 1. Badar Aman Al Fulazi (Kuwait) 49.13 secs, 2. Yevgeniy Meleshenko (Kaz) 49.66s, 3. Chen Tien Wen (Taipei) 51.72s.

Javelin: 1. Sergey Voynov (Uzb) 76.00 mts, 2. Lee Rongxiang (Chn) 75.57 mts, 3. Jagdish Bishnoi (Ind) 74.71 mts.

800m: 1. Lee Jae Hoon (Korea) 1m, 47.40s, 2. K. M. Binu (Ind) 1m, 47.52s, 3. Kim Soon Hyung (Korea) 1m, 47.91s.

400m: 1. Fawzy Dahesh Al-Shammari (Kuw) 45.42 secs, 2. Sugath Tillakeratne (SL) 45.73 secs, 3. Rohan Pradeep Kumara (SL) 46.05 secs.

Shot put: 1. Bahadur Singh Sagoo (Ind) 19.32 mts, 2. Navpreet Singh (Ind) 19.01 mts, 3. Kuldeep Mann (Ind) 18.05 mts.

High jump: 1. Zhou Zhongge (Chn) 2.22 mts, 2. Lee Jin Taek (Kor) 2.21 mts, 3. Bae Kyungho (Kor) 2.18 mts.

3000m: 1. T. A. Sivananda (Ind) 8m, 16.83 secs, 2. Eduardo Buenavista (Phl) 8m, 19.62s, 3. Arun D'Souza (Ind) 8m, 32.79s.

Triple jump: 1. Salem Mouled Al Ahmadi (Saudi) 16.84 mts, 2. Sergey Arzamasov (Kaz) 16.51 mts, 3. Petin Yevgeniy (Uzb) 16.02 mts.

100m: 1. Reanchai Sriharwong (Thai) 10.55 secs, 2. Clifford Joshua (Ind) 10.57s, 3. Anand Menezes (Ind) 10.57s.

Women: Long jump: 1. Yelena Kashcheyeva (Kaz) 6.59 mts, 2. Anju B. George (Ind) 6.58 mts, 3. Jetty C. Joseph (Ind) 6.30 mts.

400m: 1. K. V. Damayanthi Darsha (SL) 51.87 secs, 2. K. M. Beenamol (Ind) 51.96s, 3. Alyona Petrova (Trkm) 53.81s.

800m: 1. Wang Yuan Ping (Chn) 2m, 4.13 secs, 2. Tatayana Borisova (Kirghiz) 2m, 4.21s, 3. Madhuri Singh (Ind) 2m, 4.63s.

Discus: 1. Ma Shuli (Chn) 60.51 mts, 2. Harwant Kaur (Ind) 60.08 mts, 3. Song Aimin (Chn) 57.74 mts.

100m hurdles: 1. Su Yiping (Chn) 13.03 secs, 2. Trecia Roberts (Thai) 13.33s, 3. Sriyani Kulawansa Fonseca (SL) 13.50s.

100m: 1. Damayanthi Darsha (SL) 11.52 secs, 2. Poonam Tomar (Ind) 11.68s, 3. Saraswati Saha (Ind) 11.71s.

A laudable effort

THE idea of conducting an Asian Grand Prix athletic series is a laudable one. It will provide athletes from this continent more experience and exposure. But a few aspects will have to be kept in mind in order to make the meet grow in terms of prominence and relevance.

For one thing the prize money has to be increased and if necessary appearance money also has to be paid in order to bring in the big names. Large scale sponsorship is a must if this idea has to grow and this aspect assumes even more significance in the light of the fact that shortly an Asian All Stars meet may also be introduced.

The Asian GP series which was first mooted in 1987 has finally seen the light of day thanks to the initiative of the present office bearers of the Asian Amateur Athletic Association but the effort has to be sustained over the coming years.

Suresh Kalmadi, President of the AAAA, stated in Hyderabad that there are plans to make the city one of the permanent centres for the Asian GP series. That is very encouraging for Hyderabad and for India but here one must pay attention to the timing of the meets. This GP meet was conducted in May which is the peak of summer in Hyderabad and by sheer luck it rained for a couple of days before the meet, thus bringing down the temperature by a few degrees. Otherwise the conditions would have been far from conducive for athletics.