Competition reduced to a farce

KIRTI PATIL

IF Pakistan was cunning then Sri Lanka was in the mould of a con artist - to the core.

Rameshwori Devi leads the Indian 1500m Team Time Trial squad to victory. Following her are Beena Kumari and Bemcha Devi. Rameshwori picked up five gold medals in the meet.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

And though Nepal landed here and rode a few distances, it remained elusive for the big race.

So, what remained of the second SAARC cycling championships? A mere Indo-Bangla contest. Bhutan and Maldives cannot take part since both the countries have no recognised cycling federations.

Such a situation arose owing to several factors governing the region.

First it was Pakistan. It exploited the tense relationship between the two countries before withdrawing from the championship. Pakistan was supposed to send a team of 16 cyclists, but after the terrorist attacks in Jammu leading to the stand-off between the two countries, everything changed.

Pakistan was told that crossing over to India from the Wagah border was out of bounds and it had to make a trip via Dubai - a very costly affair considering transportation of cycles and other equipment. Still, Pakistan kept the CFI under the impression that it was sending a pruned team.

The India 'A' team which won the men's 4000m Team Pursuit finals (from left to right) Sukhjinder Singh, Sarabjeet Singh, Gurpreet Singh and Premojit Singh.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Finally, Pakistan accused the Indian High Commission in Islamabad of rejecting the visa applications of its cyclists. The CFI, however heard a different story. On being contacted, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad told the organisers that Pakistan never applied for the visas.

Sri Lanka had a different reason to skip the championship. It had already been snubbed by the International Cycling Union (ICU) for insisting that the championship be held only in the road race events, as in the inaugural edition held in Colombo, in 1999. That was because the island nation does not have a velodrome.

Having got its appeal rejected, Sri Lanka informed the CFI that it would participate only in road races, scheduled for the last two days of the championship. It never arrived.

The mockery continued.

When you get the Sports Minister to inaugurate the championship and have just two teams, India and Bangladesh, to do the march past, it would be embarrassing. So, an enterprising CFI official gathered a few boys with 'Mongolian' looks and fielded them as the Nepal team in the march past!

India's Sandeep Malik, who won two distance races.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Nepali mountain bikers arrived only on the third day of the championship. They took part in the 40 km road race time trial, but skipped the main event, the 120 km mass start. Eventually, what otherwise should have been an entertaining competition, was reduced to a farce. In contrast, our Nationals produce much better fare.

Such a scenario deprived the Indian cyclists of stiff competition. Bangladesh was hardly a force. Any medals it won was due to the fact that India was not allowed to field more than two cyclists or teams, in the individual events or team events respectively.

Nonetheless, India's Team Pursuit and the golden girl of Indian cycling, Rameshwori Devi, came up with superlative performances. Of the seven medals on offer in the women's events, Rameshwori struck gold in five - three individual and two team medals. There were a total of 15 gold medals at stake and India, quite expectedly, swept all of them. Bangladesh took two silver and nine bronze medals, mainly due to the absence of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

India's aim of putting its men's 4000m Team Pursuit to extreme tests was somewhat defeated as Bangladesh could not provide any creditable fight. The first choice Indian team was left to fight it out with its second string combination.

Destined to wear India colours at this year's Asian Games, the team comprising Gurpreet Singh, Premojit Singh, Sukhjinder Singh and Sarabjeet Singh, impressed one and all. Changing pace-setters on every lap, they outpedalled the India 'B' riders in the eighth lap, after having cycled for 3 minutes 10.21 seconds.

In this 12-lap event, the Indian team has been clocking 4 minutes 45 seconds on a regular basis, a timing that the CFI believes will fetch a medal in the Asian Games. India would be participating in Asian Games cycling after a gap of 12 years.

Gautamani Devi of India bagged the 60 km Mass Start title in a photo-finish.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

In the endurance events, the road races, Sandeep Malik emerged the best. He first won the 40 km individual time trial and then paced himself well in winning the 120 km mass start, the next day.

In the women's road races, Rameshwori won the 20 km individual time trial while Gautamani Devi clinched the 60 km mass start in a thrilling photo-finish.

The results: Men:

1000m Time Trial: 1. Premojit Singh (Ind) 1 min 10.738 secs; 2. K. Inder Kumar Singh (Ind) 1:12.494; 3. Shahidul Islam (Ban) 1:25.730.

4000m Individual Pursuit: Sarabjeet Singh (Ind) 5 min 17.070 secs bt Sandeep Malik (Ind) 5:25.810.

For third place: Shahidul Islam (Ban) bt Shah Iftekhar Alam (Ban) - overtook in the third lap.

1000m Sprint: K. Inder Kumar Singh (Ind) 12.333 secs bt Probin Singh (Ind) 12.642.

For third place: Shah Iftekhar Alam (Ban) 13.837 bt Joynul Abedin (Ban).

16 km Point Race: 1. Premojit Singh (Ind) 35 points; 2. Sukhjinder Singh (Ind) 25; 3. Gurpreet Singh (Ind) 18; 4. Jahangir Alam (Ban) 8.

1500m Team Time Trial: 1. India A (Sukhjinder Singh, Ch. Premojit Singh, K. Indra Kumar Singh, Gurpreet Singh) 1 min 44.593 secs; 2. India B (Paramjit Singh, Sandeep Malik, Zorawar Singh, Dharmender) 1:50.815; 3. Bangladesh (Shahidul Islam, Jahangir Alam, Abdur Rouf, Shah Iftekhar Alam) 2:09.520.

4000m Team Pursuit:

Final: India A (Gurpreet Singh, Premojit Singh, Sukhjinder Singh, Sarabjeet Singh) beat India B (Paramjit Singh, Sandeep Singh, Zorawar Singh, Dharmender) - overtook in the eighth lap.

Road races:

40 km Individual Time Trial: 1. Sandeep Malik (Ind) 52 min 09.180 secs; 2. Jorawar Singh (Ind) 52:38.260; 3. Md. Shahidul Islam (Ban) 1 hr 01:14.640; 4. Joynul Abadin (Ban) 1:04:11.191; 5. Rajendra Khadka (Nep) 1:06:12.170; 6. Ranjan Rajbhandari (Nep) 1:11:21.674.

120 km Mass Start: 1. Sandeep Malik (Ind) 3 hr 06 min 16.750 secs; 2. Paramjit Singh (Ind) 3:06:26.260; 3. Sarabjeet Singh (Ind) 3:06:44.400; 4. Jorawar Singh (Ind) 3:13:26.170; 5. Sukhjinder Singh (Ind) 3:13:26.180; 6. Sai Krishna (Ind) 3:23:34.870.

Women:

500m Time Trial: 1. Ch. Rameshwori Devi (Ind) 39.767; 2. G. Geetanjali Devi (Ind) 42.152; 3. Sabika Mondel (Ban) 48.080.

3000m Individual Pursuit: Ch. Rameshwori Devi (Ind) 4 min 21.114 secs bt O. Beena Kumari (Ind) 4:26.566.

For third place: Farhana Sultana (Ban) 5:20.250 bt Malika Parveen (Ban) 5:25.603.

1000m Sprint: O. Beena Kumari (Ind) 14.395 bt H. Ranjeeta Devi (Ind) 14.642.

For third place: Sahina Begum (Ban) 16.425 bt Farhana Sultana (Ban).

1500m Team Time Trial: 1. India (G. Geetanjali Devi, Ch. Rameshwori Devi, O. Beena Kumari, W. Bemcha Devi) 2:01.537; 2. Bangladesh (Salina Begum, Malika Parveen, Sabika Mondel, Farhana Sultana Shila) 2:32.929.

3000m Team Pursuit: India (Rameshwori Devi, O. Beena Kumari, W. Bemcha Devi, Chaoba Devi) beat Bangladesh (Malika Parveen, Farhana Sultana, Sabika Mondel, Naznin Akhtar) - overtook in the third lap.

Road races:

20 km Individual Time Trial: 1. Rameshwori Devi (Ind) 28 min 52.242 secs; 2. Chaoba Devi (Ind) 30:07.560; 3. Gangu Biradar (Ind) 30:27.100; 4. Malika Parveen (Ban) 34:21.230; 5. Sabika Mondel (Ban) 35:12.900; 6. Salina Begum (Ban) 36:20.850.

60 km Mass Start: 1. Gautamani Devi (Ind) 1 hr 52 min 49.815 secs; 2. Gangu Biradar (Ind) 1:52:49.900; 3. Bemcha Devi (Ind) 1:52:49.989; 4. G. Geetanjali Devi (Ind) 1:52:49.998; 5. Rameshwori Devi (Ind) 1:53:00.000; 6. Sabika Mondel (Ban) 1:57:08.990.

Team championship: Track:

Men: 1. India 'A' 45 points, 2. India 'B' 12, 3. Bangladesh 6. Women: 1. India 44, 2. Bangladesh 15.