A long-standing record tumbles

S. THYAGARAJAN

Decathlete Kulwinder Singh of Punjab broke Vijay Singh Chauhan's 33-year-old record in Chennai. Kulwinder has been unbeaten for seven years.-VINO JOHN

IT was a logical step by Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to segregate multi-sports events by giving these events a separate national competition for the first time. Apart from giving the gruelling decathlon, heptathlon, and pentathlon disciplines the importance they deserved, it allowed the competitors to be fresh for their events.

The efficacy of such an endeavour is best exemplified by the individual path breaking efforts by the seasoned decathlete from Punjab, Kulwinder Singh, and the upcoming star from Bengal, Sushmita Singha Roy, as well as commendable achievements recorded in the age group sections of the inaugural Indian Oil National Combined Events Athletic Competition in Chennai.

The record-breaking show in decathlon by the 27-year-old decathlete Kulwinder Singh deserves the approbation of the athletics community. The aggregate of 7325 points bettered the mark set by Vijay Singh Chauhan of Railways in the 1972 Munich Olympics by 19 points. That Chauhan's score was a record for a whopping 33 years underscores the value and class of the performer.

Like Milkha Singh's seemingly immortal quarter mile mark, Chauhan's figures had acquired an air of invincibility till the other day when Kulwinder launched a final assault on a warm, sultry day in Chennai's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Kulwinder was strong in throws, which sustained Kulwinder's momentum against the equally fired up competitors like Jora Singh (7073 points) of Haryana, Mandeep Kumar (6897) of Andhra Pradesh, Ram Viswas (6881) of Haryana and Chandrasekhar (6750) of Tamil Nadu. The final outcome was a tribute to Kulwinder's spirit, character and consistency.

Unbeaten for seven seasons, Kulwinder was understandably elated at conquering a new frontier. Palpably exhausted after the energy sapping final event — the 1500 metres which he had to win within 4:38 to hit the target and which he won in 4:36.88s to glean 700 points — Kulwinder's next goal is 7500 points in the ATF meet at Korea which is round the corner. His ultimate aim is a gold in the Qatar Asiad.

The up and coming star from Bengal, Sushmita Singha Roy (right), beat back the competition from Olympian Soma Biswas to win the heptathlon event. Soma proved to be a graceful loser-VINO JOHN

For the Sangrur-born competitor, athletics is a passion. Gifted with enormous level of endurance and a strapping personality, Kulwinder belongs to the right place, the Indian Army. Based now at Roorkee with the Bengal Engineering Corps, Kulwinder has maintained a consistent 7000-plus score for well over three years now. The Rs. 10,000 prize that the sponsor, Indian Oil Corporation, provided may not be much, but it reflects the recognition accorded to a Herculean effort.

The tussle in heptathlon was confined to two women from Bengal, the Olympian, Soma Biswas, and the emerging star of the future, Sushmita Singha Roy. The absence of the national star J. J. Shoba robbed a little of bit glamour, notwithstanding the notable showing by Tamil Nadu's Roselin Arokiya Mary and V. Leelavathi.

In the end, it was Sushmita who confirmed her growing stature bettering her recent inter-state meet tally of 5287. The 21-year-old Eastern Railway employee finished with 5420. Not surprisingly she too exuded optimism about doing well in the ATF meet. Soma Biswas scored 4432 points.

In the junior section, Karnataka girls Shilpa Sundar (4432 in Under 20), Natasha Sugumar (4407 in Under 18) and Pallavi Sugumar (a new record of 3167 in Under 16) and Tamil Nadu boys Nondisamy (5750 in Under 20), V. Deepan Kumar (4464 in Under 18 Octathlon), Raja Kumar (3597 in Under 16 pentathlon) were prominent winners.

A larger participation was anticipated in the men's and women's sections. But the deluge in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar and North Eastern States had severe impact on entries.

The Tamil Nadu Athletics Association, always in the forefront when it comes to opening new vistas, organised the event with eclat. They have reason for satisfaction in that the state won the team championship with 58 points. Karnataka finished second with 27 points.