Age-old problem crops up

P. Sailaja of Andhra Pradesh was adjudged the best lifter among women.-Pic. VINO JOHN

THE term `junior' can be a misnomer in Indian sports because strict adherence of age regulations is more often followed in the breach. In weightlifting the issue is virtually given the go-by. What else can be deduced from the candid admission by a senior official, who requested anonymity, when he said that participation of the over-aged is widespread in the junior event?

"We know it but we are helpless," he said confessing that there is no foolproof method to check this. To claim, as some in the Federation do, that age violation is universal and often overlooked is to miss the wood for the trees. What heightens the agony is that the genuine Under-20 participants have to compete in vain with the masqueradors.

In fact, it is plain admission that things have gone out of hands. The adhoc committee, which manages the Indian Weightlifting Federation affairs, is now contemplating to reclassify junior weight categories by having more lighter weight classes, sacrificing the heavier ones in a bid to ensure some genuineness to the competition at this level. Until then the championship will continue to witness made-up innocent faces and raised eyebrows, as it happened at the latest edition hosted by the Tamil Nadu unit. It is a different matter that this sport has consistently brought India laurels in international competitions and as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, produced the most number of Arjuna awardees. Besides, weightlifting, unlike other sports, still attracts employment opportunities. Southern Railway, in fact, had two observers to pick the most talented.

At least on one aspect - doping - the national body was quick to act, particularly after the ignominy of seeing Indians getting caught in the drug-web in the Manchester Commonwealth Games. The SAI, in association with its Bangalore Centre, arranged for urine collection of all medal winners as also of those picked at random for being tested at SAI's lab in Delhi. Significantly though, this mandatory dope testing did not come in the way of class performances such as the spectacular effort of P. Shailaja in the plus 75kg category, the final item of the championship. That she, like Karnam Malleswari, hailed from Andhra Pradesh was not the only common point, for, Shailaja matched the great lady's grit and determination in lifting weights that dropped many a jaw in the well-filled Ambedkar Arangam indoor facility.

A 16-1/2 year old girl, Simple Bumra, provided a semblance of rivalry to Shailaja with a gutsy display. The two girls were the cynosure of all eyes, as they entered when the snatch lift hovered around the 70kg range. The Mumbai girl asked for 95kg, 20kg more than the existing record of Debmani Kumari of Jharkand set last year and raised it comfortably. Shailaja made it 100kg and that set the tone. Simple matched that, but Shailaja, with sights on the senior national record (105 kg in the name of Bharathi Singh), cleared a breathtaking 105.5 kg next and improved it further to 107.5 kg, raising a sigh of disbelief all around.

The jerk phase was similar. At 92.5kg mark the field vanished barring the two champions. Simple raised 120kg for a new junior mark (the previous one was 100kg by Jasbir Pal Kaur). Shailaja responded with 130.5kg that broke the senior mark (earlier re<147,1,7>cord was 130kg by Gita Rani) as well. Simple added 0.5kg to raise a thrill. Shailaja replied with an incredible 135kg for a total lift of 242.5kg, which, the IWF's adhoc committee member Balbir Singh Bhatia later announced, was 2.5kg more than Malleswari's Sydney Olympic bronze medal winning total of 240kg in the 69kg category. Amazingly this had come in a junior meet. Having already made a mark at the international level (Manchester Commonwealth Games), Shailaja is set to scale new frontiers of excellence under the tutelage of SAI coach Amarnath. Deservingly Shailaja was adjudged the `best lifter' among the women and won Rs. 5000 cash prize presented by a Dubai-based NRI, Suresh Pai, a long time well-wisher of Indian weighlifting. Tamil Nadu's S. Elangovan, the gold medal winner in the 56kg category, claimed the honours among the men.

However, it was the big Jalandhar boy, Lad Singh in the 94kg category, who stole the thunder in the boys' events. The strappling youth broke every record of Mandeep Kumar but fell short of the senior mark in snatch by 3kg (148kg in the name of Harpreetpal Singh). In fact, trying 148.5 kg, Lad not only failed but unwittingly injured his left leg while dropping the weights. Perhaps that restrained him from another heroic act in jerk but the pain did not stop him from setting a new junior mark.

Overall, the girls shone with a bulk of new marks coming from their side and Shailaja ensured it was a championship to remember with her heroics.

The winners in various categories: Men: 56 kg: S. Elangovan (TN) 100kg (snatch)-132.5 kg (NR) (jerk)-232.5 kg (total); 62kg: K.Anbu Kathiravan (TN) 110-140-250; 69 kg: M. Elumalai (TN) 120-150-270; 77 kg: R. Kalidoss (TN) 120-160-280; 85 kg: Jeetender (MP) 122.5-157.5-280; 94 kg: Lad Singh (Pun) 145 (NR)-172.5 (NR)-317.5 (NR); 105 kg: Gurdeep singh (Pun) 137.5-172.5-310; plus 105kg: Sarabjit Singh (Pun) 140 (NR)-175 (NR)-315 (NR). Women: 48 kg: Thoinu Devi (UP) 62.5-92.5-155; 53 kg: Inao Devi (UP) 72.5-92.5-165; 58 kg: Renubala (UP) 85(NR)-107.5 (NR)-192.5 (NR); 63 kg: Inurani (UP) 80 (NR)-110 (NR)-190 (NR); 69 kg: Ranu Mohanty (Oris) 85 (NR)-110 (NR)-195 (NR); 75 kg: Rajyalakshmi (AP) 75-97.5-172.5; plus 75 kg: P. Shailaja (AP) 107.5 (NR)-135 (NR)-242.5 (NR).

S. R. Suryanarayan