Amritpal Singh, Shobha break barriers

ONE of the oldest records fell the other day at the Nehru Stadium in New Delhi.

K. P. MOHAN

Amritpal Singh bettered T. C. Yohannan's long-standing record in the men's long jump. — Pic. V. SUDERSHAN-

ONE of the oldest records fell the other day at the Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. After having withstood the onslaught of a number of talented jumpers through three decades, T. C. Yohannan's fabled mark was eclipsed. Just by one centimetre. But then, for the Punjab youngster, Amritpal Singh, who bettered the record, it would hardly have mattered whether it was by a centimetre or two.

During the past few years if someone had looked like going beyond the 8.07m mark, the one Yohannan posted while winning the gold at the Teheran Asian Games in 1974, it was not Amritpal Singh but Sanjay Kumar Rai. The Allahabad jumper had crossed eight metres twice and though injury-prone, Rai had shown glimpses of his old touch while posting a 7.76 at the Patiala circuit meet last year.

As such when Amritpal kicked sand twice at 8.05m and then at 8.08m, it was a big surprise. True, he has the talent. True again that he had been around the junior scene for a couple of years — he had a fifth-place finish at the World junior championships in Kingston two years ago — and had been knocking on the senior doors. But then, eight-metre plus?

J. J. Shobha set a new National record in heptathlon. — Pic. V. SUDERSHAN-

Well, that looked an improbability till the evening of March 16. In front of a bunch of spectators hardly crossing double digits, with nothing much happening around the stadium to enthuse the connoisseur, Amritpal went past eight metres. As word spread, more and more people switched their attention towards the long jump pit. And Amritpal did not disappoint them as he produced the one jump that they would talk for years to come.

There was a negligible headwind of 0.8m/second. The officials re-measured the jump that was initially called out at 8.10m. It was only 8.08m. It mattered little. History was made; Yohannan's impossible-looking mark was erased.

There were a few handshakes and pats on the back as Amritpal limped off the runway, straining his left hamstring on his last jump, which measured just 6.51m. "It keeps coming up," said the Punjab lad as he grimaced with pain.

L. Manjula (316) on way to victory in the women's 3000m steeplechase event. -- Pic.V. SUDERSHAN-

He had opened with a 7.54 and then moved to 7.88 before his successive 8.05 on his third and fourth jumps. The fifth was the record-breaking one. Second-placed Maha Singh of Haryana could manage only a 7.68.

One by one, some of the long-standing records have gone out of Indian athletics during the past six years when scientific support, food supplements, foreign experts and coaches, systematic coaching, better exposure, incentive awards and Government backing have all contributed to the `feel good factor' in the sport at home. Milkha Singh, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, Yohannan and P. T. Usha will still remain very much on our minds unless the present crop emulates them at the highest level. Of course, records set by Sriram Singh (800m) and Hari Chand (10,000m) at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games still stand. So too the triple jump mark of 16.79m set by Mohinder Singh Gill in 1971.

"Ever since I started jumping, this record has been on my mind," said Amritpal. Two generations of jumpers had aimed for the Yohannan mark. And failed.

Suresh Babu, a contemporary of Yohannan had reached 7.97m in 1979. After that only P. V. Wilson (7.90m in 1989) and Sanjay Kumar Rai (8.02 and 8.03 in 2000) had achieved 7.90 or better till last year when Tamil Nadu collegian Wayne Peppin recorded a 7.90 in Jamshedpur.

Of course, Amritpal is credited with a previous best of 7.98m in the all-India Police meet in Chennai last year, but that mark could not find a place in the official lists issued by the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI). Maybe there was a technical hitch.

The Nehru Stadium pit did not exactly measure up to the highest technical standards that could have been expected for a National meet. It was too deep and it remained so for the rest of the meet when women's long jump and men's triple jump competitions were also completed.

Apart from Amritpal's feat, the meet also saw J. J. Shobha crossing the 6200-point barrier in heptathlon and some good timings being returned by the women's 400m runners and the men's 100m contestants. Both Shobha and Amritpal also made the Athens Olympics qualifying standards, 8.05 in the case of long jump and 5900 in the case of heptathlon.

Shobha's amazing tally of 6211 points, an improvement of 323 points over 15 months, should put her in a position to aim for a top 10 finish at the Olympics. Yet, history, a recent one at that, is not on her side or that of Indian athletics.

In the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, both Soma Biswas (6186 points, the National mark that Shobha bettered in Delhi) and Pramila Ganapathy (6105) had aroused considerable interest in this energy-sapping event. But on the big stage, both faltered, Pramila finishing 24th with 5548 and Soma a rung lower at 5481.

Pramila was there just behind Shobha through the gruelling contest over two days in the Federation Cup this time, too. She was in tears as she ended with a tally of 5911, her best in three years, not enough to get two athletes entry into the Olympics even though it was better than the single entry standard. Pramila will now have to aim for 6050 points in order to join Shobha at Athens. For that matter, Soma Biswas, who dropped out of the contest after poor shows in high jump and shot put on the opening day, will also have to go for that mark and hope that she, and not Pramila, will join Shobha.

Shobha bettered six of her personal bests in the seven events. The only one that escaped her assault was the javelin. She had 44.16m there. Her other marks were: 100m hurdles (13.71s), high jump (1.69), shot put (12.52), 200m (23.53s), long jump (6.50m), 800m (2:16.40).

Piyush Kumar (191) clocked a personal best 10.35s to win the men's 100m. Vilas Nilgund (293) came second. — Pic. V. SUDERSHAN-

Shobha said that she would now be aiming for the 6500-point mark, something that should place her in the top league at the world level if she achieves it. There were nine athletes above Shobha's 6211 in last year's world lists.

She heads the current lists only because the outdoors season is yet to get off in Europe. At both the Sydney Olympics and the Paris World championships, she would have come within the top eight with her new National mark.

Being the Olympic year, there is an understandable enthusiasm to get into the relay teams. Led by Rajwinder Kaur, the woman quarter-milers made quite an impact. Rajwinder's 52.31 was just one-hundredth of a second short of the Olympic qualification norm. Two others, Manjit Kaur and S. Geetha timed sub-53s while three others, Chitra K. Soman, Pinki Parmanik and Sagardeep Kaur came under 54s. Jincy Philip pulled up on the straight, straining a muscle, while K. M. Beenamol preferred to sit out, citing lack of fitness.

Jagdish Bishnoi... a 76.28m effort in men's javelin. -- Pic. V. SUDERSHAN-

The seemingly impressive depth in the women's 400m, that should lead to the formation of a formidable longer relay quartet, will only become meaningful if the athletes are able to reproduce this kind of form at the world level.

The men's 100m also produced some excellent timings with Delhi youngster Piyush Kumar clocking a personal best 10.35s. Vilas Nilgund (10.42) and H. Jayachandran (10.52) followed, with Sandeep Sarakaria also clocking the same as the third-placed runner.

With Anil Kumar concentrating on the 200m and planning to shift to the 400m, the sprinters have a tough task ahead in their Olympic qualification quest through the relay team.

Poonam Tomar (224)... double in the 100 and 200m for women. -- Pic. V. SUDERSHAN-

Jagdish Bishnoi's 76.28m in javelin and L. Manjula's National record in the women's 3000m steeplechase, an event only in its second year at the National level, were the other highlights of the meet, sponsored by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

This was a badly-timed meet and many top athletes skipped it. The federation had to perforce schedule it so early in the season since there had to be a meet to select the team for the SAF Games and the athletes going to Islamabad had to get a feel of at least one competition. In the event, the team comprised mainly juniors.

Men:

100m: 1. Piysuh Kumar 10.35, 2. Vilas Nilgund 10.42, 3. H. Jayachandran 10.52.

200m: 1. Anil Kumar 21.02, 2. Piyush Kumar 21.34, 3. Vilas Nilgund 21.53.

400m: 1. K. J. Manojlal 47.03, 2. Satbir Singh 47.38, 3. P. Shanker 47.64.

800m: 1. Ghamanda Ram 1:51.61, 2. K. S. Ashok 1:52.27, 3. K. A. Jayakumar 1:52.90.

1500m: 1. Ghamanda Ram 3:53.38, 2. Sunil Kumar 3:53.44, 3. Mukesh Kumar Yadav 3:53.56.

5000m: 1. Sunil Kumar 14:48.94, 2. Deep Chand 14:53.10, 3. Aman Saini 14:57.90.

10000m: 1. Santosh Kumar Patel 30:54.92, 2. Deep Chand 30:58.14, 3. Naresh Kumar 31:39.18.

3000m steeplechase: 1. Ranjan Jha Kumar 9:11.62, 2. Ram Bahadur Subha 9:18.23, 3. Bhagwan Diwakar Giri 9:22.84.

110m hurdles: 1. Krishna Mohan 14.58, 2. P. E. Muthuswamy 14.96, 3. Harish Khushalappa 14.99.

400m hurdles: 1. P. Shanker 51.26, 2. Kuldev Singh 51.43, 3. Prasad Reddy 51.49.

High jump: 1. Omveer Singh 2.09, 2. Balraj Singh 2.09, 3. K. R. Roshan 2.09.

Pole vault: 1. Geesh Kumar 4.95, 2. Gajanan Kumar Upadhyay and Jitendra Kumar Singh 4.80.

Long jump: 1. Amrit Pal Singh 8.08 (NR, old 8.07m), 2. Maha Singh 7.68, 3. V. Ashok Kumar 7.34.

Triple jump: 1. Amarjit Singh 15.74, 2. K. C. Saintison 15.67, 3. Shyam Sunder 15.20.

Shot put: 1. Navpreet Singh 19.57, 2. Ranvijay Singh 18.76, 3. Jaiveer Singh 17.98.

Discus: 1. Hridayanand Singh 54.47, 2. Sukhbir Singh 53.40, 3. Devinder Singh Bajwa 52.86.

Hammer: 1. Rakesh Kumar 64.71, 2. Harpal Singh 62.21, 3. Madhu Kumar 61.11.

Javelin: 1. Jagdish Bishnoi 76.28, 2. Lijesh Kumar 74.36, 3. Mukesh Kumar Mehra 72.21.

Decathlon: 1. Jora Singh 6758, P. J. Victor 6623, 3. Chandrasekhar 5891.

20km walk: 1. B. Sita Ram 1:32:40, 2. Gurdev Singh 1:33:16, 3. Vijay Kumar Gehlot 1:34:10.

4x100m: 1. Army 41.02, 2. Tamil Nadu 41.37, 3. Punjab Police 41.40 (AAFI team 40.29 in trials).

4x400m: Army 3:13.07, Punjab Police 3:13.87, 3.16.31 (AAFI team 3:07.25 in trials).

Women:

100m: 1. Poonam Tomar 11.83, 2. K. N. Priya 12.13, 3. Rakhi Saha 12.15.

200m: Poonam Tomar 24.26, 2. K. Rama Devi 24.82, 3. M. Jyothi 25.47.

400m: 1. Rajwinder Kaur 52.31, 2. Manjit Kaur 52.65, 3. S. Geetha 52.67.

800m: 1. Madhuri A. Singh 2:08.52, Sunita Kanojia 2:09.47, Sutapa Das 2:11.10.

1500m: 1. Preeja Sreedharan 4:32.22, 2. A. Hemalatha 4:34.06, 3. Sunita Kanojia 4:35.31.

5000m: 1. Madhuri Gurnule 17:05.25, 2. Preeja Sreedharan 17:32.15, 3. Beant Kaur 17:48.96.

10000m: 1. Madhuri Gurnule 36:37.61, 2. Pushpa Devi 36:46.44, 3. Shastri Devi 37:33.52.

3000m steeplechase: 1. L. Manjula 10:52.12 (NR, old 11:05.67), 2. S. Shanthi 11:12.28, 3. Jaswinder Kaur 11:20.69.

100m hurdles: (+1.0): 1. Soma Biswas 13.91, 2. K. N. Priya 14.35, 3. Amita Kumari Sethi 14.65.

400m hurdles: 1. Pinki Parmanik 59.29, 2. Sahebani Oram 60.98, 3. Harpreet Kaur 62.48.

High jump: 1. M. Sangeetha 1.80, 2. Sahana Kumari 1.80, 3. Sushmita Singha Roy 1.71.

Pole vault: 1. Chetana Solanki 3.30, 2. V. S. Surekha 3.10, 3. Deepa Chaudhary 3.10.

Long jump: 1. Jetty C. Joseph 6.25, 2. Pooja Ahlawat 5.88, 3. Ruta Patkar 5.88.

Triple jump: 1. E. C. Kunjumol 12.74, 2. Kalpana Das 12.57, 3. Shahanas Sulaiman 12.55.

Shot put: 1. N. Latha 15.42, 2. Chaitali Paul 14.81, 3. Bimi Singh 14.05.

Discus: 1. Harwant Kaur 59.38, 2. Seema Antil 57.06, 3. Krishna Poonia 49.19.

Hammer: 1. Ritu Rani 51.72, 2. Archana Bara 50.68, 3. Rajwinder Kaur 50.46.

Javelin: 1. Gurmeet Kaur 53.25, 2. Suman Devi 52.05, 3. Gurpreet Kaur 48.57.

Heptathlon: 1. J. J. Shobha 6211 (NR, old 6186) (13.71, 1.69, 12.52, 23.53, 6.50, 44.16, 2:16.40), 2. Pramila Aiyappa 5911, 3. Manju Paulose 4927.

4x100m relay: Andhra Pradesh 47.50s, 2. Bengal 48.02, 3. Tamil Nadu 48.13.

4x400m relay: 1. Tamil Nadu 4:16.61 (AAFI `A' Team 3:30.74, AAFI `B' Team 3:34.27 in trials).

20km walk: 1. Jasmin Kaur 1:47:47, 2. Amandeep Kaur 1:48:52, 3. Sandeep Kaur 2:05:01.