Eastern Railway dominates

Buoyant Eastern Railway won the team championship . — Pic. PARTH SANYAL-

THE domination of Eastern Railway was never in doubt in the four-day 44th all-India Railway aquatics championship, held at the Subhas Sarobar Complex in Kolkata. A clutch of talented youngsters set five meet records, won 17 swimming events and took the waterpolo gold medal. To top it all, the individual championship was won by Eastern's most celebrated swimmer, Akbar Ali Mir, for the fourth successive time. The host collected 227 points to win the team championship as well.

Such an awesome display left just three gold medals in the pool for other units to share. The only event in which Eastern was humbled was in diving which was dominated by Western. Southern's Sebastian Xavier won two events, 50m freestyle and 50m breaststroke and Western's A. Rajamani won the 200m breaststroke.

Akbar Ali Mir, 19, alone rewrote three meet marks. His most cherished record of the meet ought to be the 200m butterfly. His time of 2:10.54 obliterated the previous best of 2:10.94s by K. Suresh Kumar, established in 1994. The second record came in the 200m backstroke where he clocked 2:14.54 to improve upon his own record of 2:15.37 set in 2001. The third mark came in the 200m individual medley. His time of 2:16.25 was better than Sebastian Xavier's 1994 mark of 2:16.37.

Soumyadeep Bandyopadhyay clocked 9:21.02s to win the 800m freestyle thus bettering his teammate Subrata Nandy's time of 9:33.33 set last year. Dipesh Bairagi took the 50m backstroke gold medal in a new time of 28.83s. This effort improved Sebastian Xavier's 1998 time of 29.00.

Eastern overcame South Eastern 5-4 in the final of the waterpolo event to take the title for the second straight year. Eastern has been winning the waterpolo title since 1997, but in 2001 it finished joint-winner with South Eastern. Sandip Dutta (3) and Robin Boldey (2) scored for the winner, while Biswajit Das, Sanjay Jaiswal, Supratik Mondal and Romen Roy were successful for the loser. Western defeated Central 4-3 to take the bronze medal.

Twelve units of the Indian Railways had sent 250 competitors. The fight for honours was confined to just four units — Eastern, South Eastern, Southern and Western. The rest of the units just made up the numbers.

The discomfiture of Southern, once a real force in aquatics, was pronounced owing to lack of new recruitment.

Sunil Sengupta, General Manager, Eastern Railway, gave away the medals and trophies.

The results: (winners only):

Freestyle: 50m: Sebastian Xavier (SR) 24.93s. 100m: Dipesh Bairagi (ER) 56.90s. 200m: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 2:01.14s. 400m: Soumyadeep Bandyopadhyay (ER) 4:26.31s. 800m: Soumyadeep Bandyopadhyay (ER) 9:21.02s (NMR, previous 9:33.33s by Subrata Nandy, 2002). 1,500m: Subrata Nandy (ER) 18:11.62s.

Backstroke: 50m: Dipesh Bairagi (ER) 28.83s (NMR, previous 29.00 by S. Xavier in 1998). 100m: Dipesh Bairagi (ER) 01:03.41s. 200m: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 2:14.54s (NMR, previous 2:15.37).

Breaststroke: 50m: Sebastian Xavier (SR) 32.22s. 100m: Sudip Chatterjee (ER) 1:12.96s. 200m: A. Rajamani (WR) 2:40.97.

Butterfly: 50m: Sudip Chatterjee (ER) 27.42s. 100m: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 00:59.45s. 200m: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 2:10.54s (NMR, previous 2:10.94s by K. Suresh Kumar in 1994).

Individual Medley: 200m: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 2:16.25s (NMR, previous 2:16.37 by Sebastian Xavier, 1994). 400m: Habib Ali Mir (ER) 5:03.31s.

Relays: 4x100m freestyle: Eastern (Habib, Nandy, Bairagi & Akbar) 3:53.54s. 4x200m freestyle: Eastern (Nandy, Bairagi, Habib & Akbar) 8:42.09s. 4 x 100 medley relay: Eastern (Bairagi, Chatterjee, Habib & Akbar) 4:16.93s.

Diving: 1-m springboard: Harish V. Annaldas (WR) 229.30 points. 3-m springboard: Harish V. Annaldas (WR) 413.10 points. Highboard: Bhausaheb P. Dighe (WR) 399.20 points.

Waterpolo final: Eastern 5 (Sandip Dutta 3, Robin Boldey 2) bt South Eastern 4 (Biswajit Das, Sanjay Jaiswal, Supratik Mondal, Romen Roy). For 3rd place: Western 4 bt Central 3.

Team championship: 1. Eastern 227 points. 2. South Eastern 121, 3. Southern 109, 4. Western 70. Individual championship: Akbar Ali Mir (ER) 35 points. — S. Sabanayakan