A starless meet

THE relief very much visible on the faces of many an athlete, at the end of the day, seemingly narrated a telling story: that they were only happy to have got over an ordeal.

A. VINOD

Sandeep Sarkaria (01) winning the men's 100m from Plyush Kumar.-Pic. S. MAHINSHA

THE relief very much visible on the faces of many an athlete, at the end of the day, seemingly narrated a telling story: that they were only happy to have got over an ordeal. But then, it only showed the shallowness of Indian athletics as such, even if the first-leg of the National domestic circuit (Nagercoil, July 10) was hit badly by the absence of many of the current top stars.

Of course, it had been understood that the season-opener would have only a slow start. But the fare, even when viewed with such a perspective in mind, was totally disappointing that it left even the otherwise affable Harbans Singh, the National coach, with only a few words. "I would have been happy if some of them at least performed up to their known potential.''

And the only solace was the fact that all the top three in the men's shot put did touch 18m or more: "That is a good sign. It only shows our depth in the event though we did miss Bahadur Singh and others today." Incidentally, the competition in shot put was only a last-minute addition to the day's card which had 10 other events; seven in the men's section and three in the women's, with each winner promised a cheque of Rs. 10,000, the runner-up Rs. 3,000 and the bronze-medallist Rs. 2,000 by the host Tamil Nadu Amateur Athletics Association.

In the absence of the Asian Games gold-medallist Bahadur Singh Sagoo and other seniors, the shot put event, however, did attract only four entrants. But despite that, the thin field saw Kuldeep Mann (Delhi) taking the gold with a throw of 18.50m, in his fourth and last attempt. The Delhi putter had fouled his first and third trials before coming up with the day's best throw. His only other clean attempt had measured 17.70m. Services' Jaibir Singh, who fouled all his three initial attempts, was placed second with a distance of 18.22m, precisely five centimetres more than third-placed Ramvijay Singh (Punjab). Malkhan Singh (Punjab), who completed the field, was a distant fourth at 17.10m.

The other two field events in the men's section also saw some action as it brought about a surprising defeat for both Pramod Tiwari (Uttar Pradesh) and Harminder Singh (Punjab), the favourites in the hammer throw and javelin throw, respectively. Tiwari, who had donned Indian colours in the 14th Asian Games in Busan and the reigning National record-holder, could manage only the third place in the hammer throw after touching a poor 64.02m behind his Uttar Pradesh team-mate Rakesh Kumar (66.89m) and Punjab's Birkaran Singh (64.12m).

Having come up with some good performances in the recent Asian Grand Prix series, Harminder Singh had indeed promised a lot. But then, the Punjab spear thrower could finish only fourth and last with an effort of 60.38m, which almost exactly measured 10m less than what the day's winner, Services' Lijish Kumar (70.38m) did achieve. Punjab's Ramandeep Singh and Avtar Singh were placed second and third with efforts of 68.74m and 66.70m, respectively.

The action on the track only provided a controversial start to the implementation of a new IAAF rule in this country. This occurred as the officials bungled with the start of the men's 100m that they failed to follow the new rule which states that only one false start should be allowed in all races except those in combined events. Here, there were three false-starts and when the officials finally woke up to effect the required disqualification at the end of the second early start, they only pointed out at the wrong athlete (Amit Saha) rather than the actual culprit.

This quickly drew a protest from Delhi's Sandeep Sarkaria, who threatened to stage a walk-out, and pandemonium prevailed for a short while before the officials asked Tamil Nadu's Parameshwaran to vacate the arena. The unpleasant episode, however, did not affect the concentration of Sarkaria, who won the race eventually by pipping Piyush Kumar and Saha at the post.

The trio, by the way, was clearly ahead of the rest of the pack right from the start and though it was Piyush who seemed to have a slight edge over his fellow National campers at the end of 70m, Sarkaria struck immediately thereafter to close the gap and finish the race in 10.89s; five-hundredths of a second ahead of his Delhi team-mate. Amit was third in 11.01s.

Besides Pramod Tiwari and Harminder Singh, the day also witnessed two other surprising results as P. Ramachandran and K. J. Manojlal, fancied to win the 200m and 400m, bit the dust. Ramachandran could only finish a disappointing sixth in the shorter race which was won by Uttar Pradesh's Abhishek Pandey, while Manojlal was never even in contention for a medal in the 400m after finishing fourth in Race `A'. The event was won by Punjab's Bhupender Singh who figured in Race `A' as he had a better time than what was clocked by Suresh (Tamil Nadu) and Satish Paul (Services) who had run in Race `B'. Incidentally, both Bhupender and Suresh were timed at an identical 48.65s before being separated by the official electronic timer.

Two other events also failed to enthuse the crowd as Kerala's P. S. Primesh won the 800m with an unimpressive time of 1:54.91, marked by a slow opening round, and Kuldeep Kumar of Uttar Pradesh won a personal battle against Andhra Pradesh's Arun D'Souza in the 3000m at 8:30.36.

Rakhee Saha (Bengal) provided the best result of the day from the three events of the women's section, returning a career best 11.80s and a noteworthy win over International Poonam Tomar. This after having had a slow start. Tamil Nadu's K. N. Priya, running from an outside lane, was the early leader of the race but could not hold on to her top position once Rakhee and Poonam accelerated soon after getting past the half-way mark. In the end, it was the 21-year-old Kolkata University student who hit the tape first ahead of Poonam and K. M. Greeshma, the Kerala girl who by then had struck from behind to push Karnataka's G.D. Gouramma to the fourth spot. Poonam was timed 12.00s for the silver and Greeshma 12.10s.

The 800m gold was expectedly won by Madhuri A. Singh, but again only in a poor time of 2:12.86, and was followed by Tamil Nadu's C. Latha (2:14.35) and Punjab's Tejinder Kaur (2:21.53) in that order.

It was also an easy outing for the experienced Neelam Jaswant Singh in the discus. However, the Busan Asian Games gold-medallist like the others was also a failure in coming up anywhere near her recorded best of 64.55m. The Punjab athlete's best for the day was just a mediocre 57.60m, off her first attempt, which only spoke eloquently of the demanding task left for Harbans Singh and the rest of his coaching brigade in the season ahead.

The results:

Men: 100m: 1. Sandeep Sarkaria (Del), 10.89s, 2. Piyush Kumar (Del), 10.94s, 3. Amit Saha (Rlys), 11.01s. 200m: 1. Abhishek Pandey (UP), 22.02s, 2. Amit Saha (Rlys), 22.06s, 3. Surinder Singh (Pun), 22.45s. 400m: 1. Bhupender Singh (Pun), 48.65s, 2. Suresh (TN), 48.65s, 3. Satish Paul (SSCB), 49.06s. 800m: 1. P.S. Primesh (Ker), 1:54.91, 2. S.J. Suresh (SSCB), 1:55.22, 3. Ghammada Ram (SSCB), 1:55.97. 3000m: 1. Kuldeep Kumar (UP), 8:30.36, 2. Arun D'Souza (AP), 8:32.25, 3. I.A. Shivananda (AP), 8:33.12. Shot put: 1. Kuldeep Mann (Del), 18.50m, 2. Jaibir Singh (SSCB), 18.22s, 3. Ramvijay Singh (Pun), 18.17m. Hammer throw: 1. Rakesh Kumar (UP), 66.89m, 2. Birkaran Singh (Pun), 64.12m, 3. Pramod Tiwari (UP), 64.02m. Javelin throw: 1. Lijish Kumar (SSCB), 70.38m, 2. Ramandeep Singh (Pun), 68.74m, 3. Avtar Singh (Pun), 66.70m.

Women: 100m: 1. Rakhee Saha (Ben), 11.80s, 2. Poonam Tomar (Del), 12.00s, 3. K.M. Greeshma (Ker), 12.10s. 800m: 1. Madhuri A. Singh (Pun), 2:12.86, 2. C. Latha (TN), 2:14.35, 3. Tejinder Kaur (Pun), 2:21.53. Discus throw: 1. Neelam J. Singh (Pun), 57.60m, 2. Krishna Poonia (Har), 53.31m, 3. Harwant Kaur (Pun), 52.97m.