Deepak Kumar, the saving grace

STAN RAYAN

AS he unwound at the end of a very memorable meet, Deepak Kumar Singh went into a zone of his own. Floating serenely in the calm waters, he closed his eyes to the world. The crowd went into raptures, giving him a standing ovation, cheering him wildly but the Indian Police star did not allow these things to intrude into his quiet zone. He had just his loneliness for company.

Moments earlier, he had whipped up the waters into a raging fury, hunting down the 200m breaststroke national mark, his third Indian record at the 56th Senior National Aquatic Championships in Thrissur. But after the storm came the calm.

Deepak Kumar, with three National records, was adjudged the Best Swimmer of the meet in the men's section.-MAHESH HARILAL

A few minutes later, as he swam to the deck, Deepak gave a small hint of the little things that ran through his mind during those solitary moments. He keenly asked his coach Mohinder Singh Tokas tosplit timings of each of his four laps. And the little things that needed polishing.

"That's the good thing about him, he is always thirsty for more. He wants to keep on improving," said Railway coach K. K. Mukundan, who has been observing the breaststroke wonder for a few years now.

T. A. Sujith picked up four individual golds including a new meet mark in the 200m freestyle.-MAHESH HARILAL

Clearly, Deepak was hungry for history and for landmarks at the Thrissur Nationals. He became the first Indian to break the 30-second barrier in the 50m breaststroke with a 29.88 secs sprint on the opening day. But he was not satisfied and went on to shatter the other two marks in the event. The 21-year-old Deepak is now the country's breaststroke king and he holds all the three best Indian times in the event.

Apart from Deepak's three national records, two other meet marks also fell in swimming at the six-day event. Services' T. A. Sujith (200 m freestyle) and Tamil Nadu's Saba Sait (50 m breaststroke) accounted for the other records. However, Saba, who set the mark in the heats, could just manage a silver in the final.

When the National began, the talking point was the absence of the eight young stars who were held up at the Asian Games camp in New Delhi. But by the end, the goodly crowd and the organisers were singing hosannas to Deepak.

"All his three national records were top class. And his 50m timing should command a lot of respect in the Asian circuit. But if he concentrates on the 100m, Deepak could be a medal prospect in Asia," said Arjun Awardee Wilson Cherian, India's backstroke king for nearly a decade till 1992.

Kailash Nath, the veteran, picked up a bagful of gold medals. He dominated in the distance events.-MAHESH HARILAL

As a little boy, the only thing Deepak remembers doing was swimming.

Water has been a way of life since he was three. Not surprising, for the CRPF Inspector is the son of Ram Balak Singh, a member of the Indian team which won the Asian Games waterpolo bronze a couple of decades ago.

Strong and broad-shouldered, Deepak is blessed with sound technique. He is also a powerful finisher, something that often catches his opponents off guard.

"But my start needs a lot of improvement. If I can put some more explosiveness into my take-off, I can produce some great timings," said the youngster.

Apart from the breaststroke sweep, Deepak also won the 200 m individual medley gold. The jury made the right choice when it named him the best male swimmer.

Ambica Iyengar proudly shows her medals. The Karnataka girl was adjudged the Best Swimmer of the meet in the women's section.-MAHESH HARILAL

Ambica's dream comes true

While Deepak lapped up record after record, a little girl from Bangalore went on a gold-collecting spree and picked eight in all, including the three relays. Karnataka's Ambica N. S. Iyengar figured in five individual events but surprisingly, she had not even been among the medallists in three of them at the recent State championships in Bangalore.

With the Swimming Federation of India and the national campers leaving everyone guessing, Ambica landed in Thrissur unsure of her events. A triple gold medallist in the Chennai junior National, Ambica finished as the queen of the Senior National, the best woman swimmer.

Sumi Cyriac with her sister Sony Cyriac. Sumi had a great run in the backstroke events.-MAHESH HARILAL

"It's a dream come true," said the 16-year-old first year PUC student of Bangalore's Mount Carmel College who picked golds in the 400, 800, 1500 freestyle events and the 200 and 400 individual medleys.

As she smiled sweetly with the bunch of gold in her hand, one thought she will be singing "one for my master, one for my dame..." But no, one was wrong. "These are all for my brother Arun who passed away in 1998. He was just 17 then. I dedicate all my medals to him.

"He was handicapped, confined to a wheel chair for long, but he always wanted me to win. He also made a lot of sacrifices for me, staying alone at home while both my parents accompanied me for the daily sessions and for meets," said Ambica.

Ambica, though short, is technically good. The 16-year-old who switched over from the K. C. Reddy Centre to the Basavangudi Aquatic Centre had participated in the last two Nationals but Thrissur gave her her first senior titles. And suddenly, it was raining gold.

Taniya Ganguly set a National mark in diving. Her record came in the 3-metre springboard.-MAHESH HARILAL

The Nationals also displayed the depth of talent in Karnataka. Though the State was without five of its best stars (Rehan Poncha, Shikha Tandon, V. Sivaranjini, K. Chitra and Reshma Millet), it regained the overall championship after a two-year break, with 258 points.

In a way, the missing stars turned out to be blessing for many. It gave the Karnataka second string, especially the girls, new confidence and new options. And clearly motivated, girls like Ambica Iyengar, Archana Bhushan (100, 200 fly), D. Mrudula (50 breaststroke) and sub-junior Shubha Chittaranjan (50 fly, 100, 200 free) came up with a string of impressive performances. Karnataka swept all the women's relay titles too.

But Karnataka could not touch any of the national records. And with Police's Richa Mishra, who won 10 individual golds at the last edition in Kolkata two years ago, also absent, only one meet mark fell in the women's section.

Harish V. Annaldas set the lone men's record in 1-metre springboard.-MAHESH HARILAL

Services' T.A.Sujith was the fastest man for the second successive time. He also finished with four golds, including the 100 fly, the 100 and 200 free, the last with a championship record. Bengal's Amrapali Das Gupta was the fastest woman.

Kailash Nath also finished with a golden four in distance events, but clearly, the old fire was missing. "It's getting a bit boring," admitted the Police international, who has nearly 40 senior national golds to his credit.

While Kailash needs a pep-up with some close races, Railway's Sumi Cyriac found new inspiration as she swept the women's backstroke titles. With coach K. K. Mukundan changing her swimming style a bit, Sumi has found her events tastier than ever. With her youngster sister, Kerala's Sony, following her to silver in two events, there is more spice in backstroke races now.

Rashmi Das on her way to a National record in highboard diving.-MAHESH HARILAL

Diving to National records

There was a good turn-out and plenty of action in diving, with four of the six events producing national records. All the three women's winners, Railway's junior international Mamoni Mondal (1-metre springboard), Taniya Ganguly (3-metre springboard) and Police's Rashmi Das (highboard) set national marks. Railway's Harish V. Annaldas set the lone men's record, in 1-metre springboard.

Railways maintained its supremacy in men's waterpolo, taking the title for the 11th consecutive year while Kerala regained the women's crown after a three-year break.

The results: Men:

Freestyle, 50m: 1. T. A. Sujith (Services, 24.34s), 2. D. Bairagi (Rly, 25.04), 3. Rahul Batra (Kar, 25.07). 100m: 1. T. A. Sujith (Services, 53.75s), 2. Rahul Batra (Karn, 54.96), 3. B. H. Ashwin Kumar (Karn, 55.06). 200m: 1. T. A. Sujith (Services, 1:58.58 secs NMR, OR 1:58.70 by Police's S.H.Hakimuddin, 1998), 2. Rahul Batra (Karn, 2:00.68), 3. Kailash Nath (Police, 2:01.49). 400m: 1. Kailash Nath (Police, 4:16.73s), 2. Mandar Divse (Police, 4:19.58), 3. Nilendu Jena (Services, 4:25.27). 800m: 1. Kailash Nath (Police, 8:51.24 secs), 2. Mandhar Devse (Police, 9:05.39), 3. Nilendu Jena (Services, 9:07.03). 1500m: 1. Kailash Nath (Police, 16:56.61s), 2. Mandhar Devse (Police, 17:16.37), 3. Nilendu Jena (Services, 17:39.39).

Mamoni Mondal won the 1-metre springboard event with a National record to boot.-MAHESH HARILAL

Breaststroke, 50m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (Police, 29.88s, new National record; OR: own 30.31 set in heats), 2. Harinder Singh (Police, 31.01), 3. Puneet Rana (Pun, 31.23). 100m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (Police, 1:06.21, new national & meet record, old national own 1:06.24 2002, meet own 1:07.16, 2000), 2. Harinder Singh (Police, 1:08.91), 3. Puneet Rana (Punjab, 1:09.22). 200m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (Police, 2:27.28s, new National & meet record, OR own 2:28.32, 2000), 2. B. Vinay (Police, 2:29.20), 3. Anil (Hary, 2:35.41).

Backstroke, 50m: 1. V. Arun (TN, 28.48 secs), 2. D.Bairagi (Rly, 28.89), 3. T. K. Senthilkumar (Ker, 28.93). 100m: 1. D. Bairagi (Rly, 1:03.08s), 2. Mirajul Rehman (Services, 1:03.47), 3. N. S. Abhiram (Kar, 1:03.82). 200m: 1. T. K. Senthil Kumar (Ker, 2:15.83s), 2. N. S. Abhiram (Kar, 2:16.27), 3. Satish Kumar (Police, 2:21.16).

Butterfly, 50m: 1. Rahul Batra (Kar, 27:13 secs), 2. Sudip Chatterjee (Rly, 27:16), 3. R. Anilkumar (Services, 27.26). 100m: 1. T. A. Sujith (Services, 58.16s), 2. Shiresh Reddy (Police, 59.78), 3. Sudip Chatterjee (Rly, 59.97). 200m: 1. Sreesh Reddy (Police, 2:11.82s), 2. Pankaj Das (Rly, 2:11.93), 3. Kalidas Bairagi (Services, 2:14.33).

Individual medley, 200m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (Police, 2:14.34 secs), 2. N. S. Abhiram (Karn, 2:20.70), 3. Habeeb Ali Mir (Rly, 2:20.80). 400m: 1. Kailash Nath (Police, 4:49.78s), 2. Nilendu Jena (Services, 4:56.42), 3. S. Pawan (Rly, 4:59.62).

Relays, 4x100 m freestyle: 1. Services (Binoy Sebastian, S. Rajimon, Shibu Sebastian, T.A.Sujith, 3:43.85 secs), 2. Karnataka (Aniket D'souza, B. H. Aswin Kumar, N. A. Krishna, Rahul Batra, 3:44.91), 3. Indian Police (Deepak Kumar, Ratheesh Kumar, Jose Joseph, Kailash Nath, 3:50.31). 4x200 m freestyle: 1. Services (Benoy Sebastian, P. S. Sujith, Nilendu Jena, T. A. Sujith, 8:17.06s), 2. Police (Mandar Divse, Deepak Kumar Singh, Shiresh Reddy, Kailash Nath, 8:21.47), 3. Railway (S. Nandi, Pankaj Das, Habib Ali Mir, Reji Kumar, 8:36.88). 4x100 m medley: 1. Services (Mirajul Rehman, L.Shyam Singh, T.A.Sujith, Benoy Sebastian, 4:09.39 secs), 2. Police (Satish Kumar, Deepak Kumar Singh, Sriresh Reddy, Harinder Singh, 4:10.44), 3. Kerala (T.K.Senthil Kumar, K. A. Chandra Babu, K. Rajeev, I. C. Raju, 4:12.30). 4 x 100 m freestyle relay: 1. Services (Binoy Sebastian, S. Rajimon, Shibu Sebastian, T. A. Sujith, 3:43.85 secs), 2. Karnataka (Aniket D'souza, B.H. Aswin Kumar, N. A. Krishna, Rahul Batra, 3:44.91), 3. Indian Police (Deepak Kumar, Ratheesh Kumar, Jose Joseph, Kailash Nath, 3:50.31).

Team championship, men: 1. Indian Police (136), 2. Services (123). Best swimmer: Men: Deepak Kumar Singh (Police).

Women:

Freestyle, 50m: 1. Amrapali Das Gupta (Beng, 28.86s), 2. Rishi Mehra (Police, 29.29), 3. Shruti Reddy (Mah, 29.85). 100m: 1. C. Shubha (Karn, 1:03.23s), 2. Amrapali Das Gupta (Beng, 1:03.62), 3. P. Praditha (Karn, 1:04.49). 200 m: 1. C. Shubha (Karn, 2:18.83 secs), 2. P. Praditha (Karn, 2:21.02), 3. V. Remya (Ker, 2:21.55). 400m: 1. Ambica N.S. Iyengar (Karn, 4:44.64s), 2. Avani Sawant (Police, 4:53.27), 3. Bhavana Sharma (Police, 4:54.56). 800m: 1. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (Kar, 9:47.80s), 2. Avani A. Sawant (Police, 10:00.94), 3. V. Remya (Ker, 10:16.62). 1,500m: 1. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (Karn, 18:56.42 secs), 2. Avani Sawant (Police, 19:10.13), 3. S.Veena (Karn, 19:43.83).

Breaststroke, 50m: 1. D. Mrudula (Karn, 37.21 secs), 2. Saba Sait (TN, 37.34, set NMR of 37.05 in heats, OR 37.12 of Maharashtra's Zeba Wadia, 1999), 3. Madhura Patil (Mah, 37.73). 100m: 1. Saba Sait (TN, 1:20.09s), 2. Bhavana Sharma (Police, 1:21.24), 3. D. Mrudula (Karn, 1:22.48). 200m: 1. Bhavana Sharma (Police, 2:53.01 secs), 2. Archana Bhushan (Karn, 2:53.50), 3. S. Sampada (Karn, 2:53.83).

Backstroke, 50m: 1. Sumi Cyriac (Rly, 32.53 secs), 2. Sony Cyriac (Ker, 33.59), 3. Amrapali Das Gupta (Beng, 33.99). 100m: 1. Sumi Cyriac (Rly, 1:09.87 secs), 2. Amrapali Das Gupta (Beng, 1:12.48), 3. Sony Cyriac (Ker, 1:12.58). 200m: 1. Sumi Cyriac (Rly, 2:31.15s), 2. Sony Cyriac (Ker, 2:35.95), 3. Amrapali Das Gupta (Beng, 2:37.81).

Butterfly, 50m: 1. C. Shubha (Kar, 31:18s), 2. Amina Sait (TN, 31:63), 3. Archana Bhushan (Kar, 31:96). 100m: 1. Archana Bhushan (Kar, 1:08.85s), 2. Amina Sait (TN, 1:09.07), 3. C. Shubha (Kar, 1:09.54). 200m: 1. Archana Bhushan (Karn, 2:32.85s), 2. Sampada Sudarshan (Karn, 2:33.97), 3. Pooja Ghorpade (Mah, 2:36.33).

Individual medley, 200 m: 1. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (Karn, 2:32.09 secs), 2. Rishu Mehra (Police, 2:38.78), 3. V. Thejaswini (Karn, 2:39.95). 400m: 1. Ambica N.S. Iyengar (Kar, 5:25.18s), 2. Archana Bhushan (Karn, 5:31.09), 3. V. Remya (Ker, 5:40.70).

Relays: 4x100 m freestyle: 1. Karnataka (Praditha, V. Thejaswini, C.Shubha, Ambica N. S. Iyengar, 4:19.06 secs), 2. Bengal (Rajshree Chakraborty, Santana Patra, Chaitali Ghosh, Amrapali Das Gupta, 4:26.79), 3. Indian Police (Bhavana Sharma, Puja Nair, Charu Mishra, Rishu Mehra, 4:28.21). 4x200m: 1. Karnataka (M. Kshipra, C. Shubha, P. Praditha, Ambica N. S. Iyengar, 9:34.81s), 2. Police (Bhavana Sharma, Charu Mishra, Rishu Mehra, Avani Savant, 9:39.20), 3. Bengal (Santana Patra, Rajashree Chakravarti, Amrapali Dasgupta, Chamili Ghosh, 9:49.09). 4x100m medley: 1. Karnataka (Thejaswini, Sampada Sudarshan, C. Shubha, Ambica N. S. Iyengar, 4:54.63s), 2. Tamil Nadu (Amina Sait, Saba Sait, Sruthi Arunkumar, Mruthula Rajiv, 4:59.17), 3. Kerala (Sony Cyriac, C.K. Manju, V. Remya, S. Sumisha, 5:02.23).

Team championship: 1. Karnataka (182), 2. Indian Police (76). Best swimmer: Ambica N. S. Iyengar (Karnataka).

Overall championship (swimming): 1. Karnataka (258 pts), 2. Indian Police (212), 3. Services (123).

Diving: Men, 1-metre springboard: 1. Harish V. Annaldas (Rly, 272.20 pts, national record; OR 255.75 by Rly's Tarak Nath Hait, 1999), 2. Yogesh H. Watave (Services, 242.20), 3. G. B. Sharath (Karn, 240.95). 3-metre springboard: 1. Yogesh H.Watve (Services, 470.05 pts), 2. G. B. Sharath (Karn, 454.85), 3. Sandeep Misra (Rly, 441.80). Highboard: 1. Madan S. Jawlkar (Del, 450.75 pts), 2. Umesh Gadge (Ser, 404.95), 3. Atul R. Pati (Ser, 403.50). Team championship: Services (men, 26 pts). Best diver: Yogesh Watave (Services, 12 pts),

Women, 1-metre springboard: 1. Mamoni Mondal (Rly, 186.10 pts national record, OR 179.90, own, 2000), 2. Shruti Srivastav (MP, 183.80, BR), 3. Suparna Pal (Rly, 179.05). 3-metre springboard: 1. Taniya Ganguly (Rly, 354.95, new National record, OR: Rly's Ishani Ghosh, 344.65, 1999), 2. Mamoni Mondal (Rly, 345.35, BR), 3. Ashwini Mohite (Kar, 344.85, BR). Highboard: 1. Rashmi Das (Police, 379.25 pts, new record; OR 339.25 by Rly's Suparna Paul, 2000), 2. Suparna Paul (Rly, 366.50 BR), 3. Manomi Mandal (Rly, 359.75, BR). Team championship: Railways (women, 32 pts). Best diver: Mamoni Mondal (Rly, 16 pts).

Waterpolo: Men's final: Railways 6 (Sandeep Dutta 3, Biswajit Das, Sudipta Goswami, C. S. Santhoshkumar) bt Services 2 (Bijender Roy 2). Third place play-off: Bengal 8 (Dibyendu Das 5, Biswajit Dey 2, Hafiz Dhali 1) bt Indian Police 5 (S.L.Gopakumar 2, N. Gopakumar, Parasuram Babu, Harwinder Singh). Semifinals: Railways 7 bt Police 4; Services 12 bt Bengal 2. Best player: Sandeep Dutta (Railways).

Women's final: Kerala 2 (Biji Verghese 2 goals) bt Indian Police 1 (Smitha Gavane). Third place play-off: Bengal 4 bt Maharashtra 3. Semifinals: Kerala bt Maharashtra 4-1; Police bt Bengal 8-2. Best player: Biji Varghese (Kerala).