A glimmer of hope

It was double delight for Dutee Chand as she bagged both the 100m and 200m gold.-Pics. MANOB CHOWDHURY

Despite the four-day championship coming at the end of the season, with very little left for the competitors to look forward to in the year, the track and field events were keenly contested. By S. Sabanayakan.

The most prestigious meet in the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) calendar is the Open Nationals. The 53rd edition, successfully hosted by the Jharkhand Athletics Association, at the Birsa Munda Stadium, threw up some exciting talent that promises to keep the Indian flag flying, at least at the continental level.

Despite the four-day championship coming at the end of the season, with very little left for the competitors to look forward to in the year, the track and field events were keenly contested.

One of India’s finest athletes, P. T. Usha, was peeved with the scheduling of the meet and thought it could have been held earlier, presenting a chance for Indian athletes to qualify for the World Championships in Moscow.

The chief national coach, Bahadur Singh, however, differed with the Payyoli Express. He felt a lot of thinking and planning goes into scheduling of a meet. There were other events before the Open meet, he pointed, available for Indian athletes to attain the qualification mark.

Durgesh Kumar Pal of Services was adjudged the Best Male Athlete of the meet.-

Those who represented India at international events did show a marked decline in their performances. “It is difficult to sustain the peak performance for a longer period of time,” Usha observed. “Those athletes who prepared only for this championship will do well.”

Some of the leading youngsters did grab the opportunity to announce their arrival on the national scene. Leading the bunch was 17-year-old sprinter from Odisha, Dutee Chand. The diminutive athlete, running under the ONGC banner, registered a sprint double, winning the women’s 100 and 200m with consummate ease. Dutee, who has an Asian Championship bronze medal to her credit, made Merlin K. Joseph eat the humble pie in the shorter sprint.

Merlin, though, accounted for the only National Record set at the meet. Her 11.35s in the 100m, achieved in the semi-finals, made the final a little less relevant. Dutee and Jyothi of Karnataka relegated the Railway athlete to a bronze place.

Dutee was not the only athlete to register a double. Loganathan Suriya of Railways won the distance double, retaining the 5,000 and 10,000m titles. M. A. Prajusha was another Railway employee to record a double, taking the long and triple jump gold medals. Sandeep Karan Singh of Services showed a clean pair of heels to Sajeesh Joseph of Railways in the metric mile for men. Sajeesh’s hopes of winning a double, after he took the 800m from a spirited Manjeet Singh of ONGC, went for a toss.

There were two outstanding shows in the jumping pit. Horizontal jumper K. Prem Kumar of Railways, whose 8.09m at the recently held Inter-Railway meet in New Delhi raised hopes of an encore, fizzled out owing to a hamstring injury after two jumps. The event was won by another up-and-coming youngster Ankit Sharma of LIC. In another match-up of the meet, Renjith Maheshwary of Railways failed to overcome the challenge of Arpinder Singh of ONGC in the men’s triple jump.

Three meet marks were improved, one of which came from the hot property of Indian athletics, Sudha Singh, who has been breaking the 3,000m steeplechase records over a period of time. Sudha has gone below 10 minutes over the distance and should continue to rule this event for the next few years.

Annu Rani of Railways sent the javelin to a distance of 54.35m to erase the eight-year-old mark of Gurmeet Singh. It was all the more creditable because Annu’s event was held under a steady drizzle.

The Railway men’s 4x400m relay quartet produced the third meet record on the final day to bring down the curtains on the championship. Railways won the overall team championship with 282 points with its women’s contingent taking the honours with 180 points. Services continued to dominate the men’s section with 163 points.

Loganathan Suriya of Southern Railway won the distance double.-

Durgesh Kumar Pal of Services, winner of men’s 400m hurdles, was adjudged the Most Valuable Male Athlete while Merlin Joseph was declared the Best Female Athlete.

But the story of the meet was that of R. Elavarasi of Tamil Nadu and her state-mate A. Papathi of Police.

For the 25-year-old 400m hurdler, the season came to a perfect end as she won all the three major titles, Open, Inter-State and Federation Cup.

Papathi, a 32-year-old mother, showed exemplary spirit in competing and still winning a bronze medal.

Both the hurdlers complained that they had no place in Chennai to practise. “We are not allowed to train at the stadium owing to lack of permission. We practise on the mud track outside the stadium and that too without hurdles. We use bricks as hurdles and jump over them,” quipped Elavarasi.

Usha’s 1984 time of 55.54s still stands as the National Record. Thirty nine years have passed since she produced the magical run, but Indian hurdlers are still struggling to come under the one-minute mark consistently. Despite winning three major titles this season, Elavarasi, too, has failed to clock below one minute.

* * * What's in a medal?

For some athletes, winning a medal at the Open National meet is a routine affair. And hence, having won one, they have no time to attend the awards ceremony.

At least on four occasions, reputed athletes decided to skip the awards ceremony for reasons known to them or only to their team officials. Men’s shot put winner Om Prakash Singh of ONGC, javelin bronze medal winner Rajendra Singh of Railways, women’s 10,000m silver medal winner Kavita Raut of ONGC and men’s high hurdler Joseph Abraham failed to come to the podium to collect their medals.

Madhukant Pathak, president of the Jharkhand Athletics Association, said the team management should ensure the medal winners’ presence at the podium. Some of the team officials, however, complained that undue delay in organising the medal ceremonies forced the athletes to skip the function in order to catch their flight or train back home.

The secretary of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), C. K. Valson awarded the medals to men’s javelin winners, before he too left for home, on the penultimate day.

He guaranteed reporters that the AFI would ensure the embarrassment is not repeated on the final day. Despite his assurance, the women’s 10,000m event witnessed the same charade.

S. Sabanayakan * * * THE RESULTS

MEN: 100m: 1. Aniruddha Gujar (LIC) 10.46s, 2. S. Sathya (TN) 10.66, 3. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi (ONGC) 10.67. 200m: 1. Amiya Kumar Mallick (Ori) 21.22s, 2. Manikanda Arumugam (Rly) 21.47, 3. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi (ONGC) 21.56. 400m: 1. Kunhu Mohammad (Ser) 46.51s, 2. Aroakia Rajiv (Ser) 46.82, 3. Sachin Roby (Ser) 46.91. 800m: 1. Sajeesh Joseph (Rly) 1:49.50s, 2. Manjit Singh (ONGC) 1:49.51, 3. Jinson Johnson (Ser) 1:50.26. 1,500m: 1. Sandeep Karan Singh (Ser) 3:46.97s, 2. Sajeesh Joseph 3:47.91, 3. Anil Singh (MP) 3:48.05. 5,000m: 1. G. Lakshmanan (Ser) 13:58.53s, 2. Suresh Kumar (ONGC) 14:01.60, 3. Inderjit Patel (ONGC) 14:19.70. 10,000m: 1. Kheta Ram (Ser) 29:47.92s, 2. Suresh Kumar (ONGC) 29:48.10, 3. Rati Ram Saini (Rly) 29:53.40. 110m hurdles: 1. A. Suresh (Rly) 14.19s, 2. K. Prem Kumar (AP) 14.34, 3. T. Balamurugan (TN) 14.41. 400m hurdles: 1. Durgesh Kumar Pal (Ser) 50.89s, 2. Jithin Paul (Rly) 51.14, 3. Joseph Abraham (Rly) 51.31. 3000m steeplechase: 1. Jaiveer Singh (Ser) 9:00.41s, 2. Sachin Patil (Rly) 9:09.12, 3. Karamvir (Ser) 9:14.15. High jump: 1. Jithin C. Thomas (Ser) 2.11m, 2. A. Shaiju (Ser) 2.08, 3. Chetan (Kar) 2.05. Pole vault: 1. K.P. Bimin (Rly) 5.00m, 2. Balakrishna (Rly) 4.80, 3. Kundan (Har) 4.70. Long jump: 1. Ankit Sharma (LIC) 7.73m, 2. K. Prem Kumar (Rly) 7.62, 3. Raja Oomman (Ker) 7.37. Triple jump: 1. Arpinder Singh (ONGC) 16.70m, 2. Renjith Maheshwari (Rly) 16.64, 3. A.V. Rakesh Babu (Ser) 16.12. Shot put: 1. Om Prakash Singh (ONGC) 18.67m, 2. Indrajeet Singh (Har) 18.58, 3. Jasdeep Singh (ONGC) 17.97. Discus: 1. Arjun (Har) 54.10m, 2. Dharam Raj (Ser) 50.99, 3. Karan Singh (Rly) 50.19. Hammer: 1. Chandrodaya Narayan Singh (UP) 67.75m, 2. Niraj Kumar (Ser) 66.19, 3. Kaushal Singh (Ser) 61.93. Javelin: 1. Ravinder Singh (Chd) 75.47m, 2. Dinesh Kr. Rao (Raj) 74.62, 3. Rajendra Singh (Rly) 72.88. Decathlon: 1. Daya Ram (Ser) 6812 points, 2. V.V. Raneesh (Rly) 6742, 3. Ajay Yadav (Ser) 6576. 4x100m relay: 1. Tamil Nadu 41.02s, 2. Services 41.15, 3. Railways 41.34. 4 x 400m relay: Services 3:07.27s (NMR, old 3:07.29s by Services at New Delhi in 2002), 2. Haryana 3:11.87, 3. Railways 3:12.16. 20 km walk: K. Ganapathi (Ser) 1::27:18.15s, 2. Gurmeet Singh (Rly) 1::28:19.30, 3. Baljinder Singh (Pun) 1::29:09.08.

Women: 100m: 1. Dutee Chand (ONGC) 11.73s, 2. H.M. Jyothi (Kar) 11.87, 3. Merlin K. Joseph (Rly) 11.95. 200m: 1. Dutee Chand (ONGC) 24.02s, 2. Chavi Sharawat (Rly) 24.05, 3. V. Santhini (LIC) 24.30. 400m: 1. M.R. Poovamma (ONGC) 53.96 secs, 2. Chavi Sharawat (Railways) 54.44, 3. Anu Mariam Jose (LIC) 54.59. 800m: 1. Tintu Luka (Rly) 2:01.87s, 2. Sushma Devi (Rly) 2:03.11, 3. Sinimol Markose (ONGC) 2:03.51. 1,500m: 1. Sinimol Markose (ONGC) 4:29.72s, 2. O.P. Jaisha (Rly) 4:30.52, 3. Jhuma Khatun (Rly) 4:31.00. 5,000m: 1. L. Suriya (Rly) 16:24.58s, 2. Preeja Sreedharan (Rly) 16:27.70, 3. Kavita Raut (ONGC) 16:57.91. 10,000m: 1. L. Suriya (Rly) 34:07.45s, 2. Kavita Raut (ONGC) 34:36.25, 3. Preeja Sreedharan (Rly) 35:11.58. 3000m steeplechase: 1. Sudha Singh (Rly) 10:09.04s (NMR, old 10:09.56 by Sudha, Kochi, 2010), 2. Lalita Babar (Rly) 10:33.40, 3. Kiran Tiwari (Har) 10:52.75. 100m hurdles: 1. G. Gayathry (TN) 13.07s, 2. J. Hemashree (LIC) 14.19, 3. M.M. Anchu (Rly) 14.31. 400m hurdles: 1. R. Elavarasi (TN) 1:00.80s, 2. Anju Rani (ONGC) 1:01.55, 3. A. Papathi (Pol) 1:01.88. High jump: 1. Reena (Pol) 1.70m, 2. N.K. Siji (Rly) 1.65, 3. Mallika Mondal (Rly) 1.65. Pole Vault: 1. Khyatri S. Vakharia (ONGC) 3.70m, 2. V.S. Surekha (Rly) 3.60, 3. Kiranbir Kaur (Pol) 3.50. Long jump: 1. M.A. Prajusha (Rly) 6.25m, 2. V. Neena (Rly) 6.20, 3. Bhumika Thakur (Pun) 5.95. Triple jump: 1. M.A. Prajusha (Rly) 12.91s, 2. V. Neena (Rly) 12.76, 3. Mereena Joseph (Pol) 12.50. Shot put: 1. Manpreet Kaur (Rly) 15.03m, 2. Neha Singh (Pol) 13.62, 3. U. Vasumathi (LIC) 13.12. Discus: 1. Pramila (Rly) 48.10m, 2. Manisha (Har) 42.56, 3. Ankita Julka (LIC) 42.52. Hammer: 1. Poonam Devi (Har) 54.14m, 2. Sonam (LIC) 53.47, 3. Manju Bala (Rly) 53.40. Javelin: 1. Annu Rani (ONGC) 54.35m (NMR, old 53.77m by Gurmeet Kaur, New Delhi, 2005), 2. Rupinder Kaur (Pol) 48.16, 3. S. Saraswathy (Rly) 48.07. Heptathlon: 1. Sushmita Singha Roy (Rly) 5183 points, 2. Purnima Hembram (ONGC) 5108, 3. Navpreet Kaur (Pun) 5052. 4x100m relay: 1. Railways 46.35s, 2. LIC 47.68, 3. Kerala 48.75. 4x400m relay: 1. Kerala 3:43.90s, 2. Railways 3:44.70, 3. ONGC 3:45.79. 20 km walk: 1. Khushbir Kaur (ONGC) 1::45:21.47s, 2. Ranjana Gupta (Pol) 1::48:00.10, 3. Rani Yadav (Rly) 1::52.36.37.