How Randhawa's time became 14.09

Published : Oct 13, 2001 00:00 IST


A 37-YEAR-OLD National record was bettered. If Punjab's 20-year-old high hurdler, Gurpreet Singh, had not achieved that distinction and if a couple of others had not come up with a few more notable performances, the 41st National Inter-State athletic championships in Lucknow would have turned out to be the most forgettable meet in many years.

Many of the top performers, including K. M. Beenamol, Neelam J. Singh, Anju Markose, C. Thirugnanadurai, Sandeep Sarkaria. Paramjeet Singh, Ajay Raj Singh, Lijo David and Ishtiaque Ahmed skipped the meet. A few others like Rachita Mistry, Vinita Tripathi and Shakti Singh had not even made a start this season while Sunita Rani, coming back to training after more than a year's lay-off due to injury, was only looking forward to the Asian Games year in 2002.

Indian athletes fighting shy of competitions is nothing new. Now that the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) has also decided to "preserve" a few stars for tougher battles - imaginary or otherwise - ahead, National meets are bound to wear a starved look.

That Lucknow happened to be just the fifth meet for a handful of athletes and only the second meet for a majority of the others in the year 2001 should be kept in mind when we talk of "preserving," the athletes. Obviously, the coaches and the federation are concerned with the abysmal drop in standards witnessed this year, compared to the flurry of National records in 2000, and are thus trying to find a way out. Keeping the athletes out from National meets will, of course, be not an answer.

Surprisingly, there were several top athletes who were competing for the first time this season, sprint champion Anil Kumar, quarter-miler P. Ramachandran and Gurpreet Singh included. Anil Kumar and Ramachandran were recovering from chicken pox, while Gurpreet was confined to a camp conducted by the Railways. Gurpreet called the track at the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College stadium a 'lucky' one for him. It was on this track that he had clocked a 14.19 in the Inter-State in 1999. Since then the track has become that much harder and caked.

With Sahib Singh coming back after more than a year's lay-off and P. T. Yesudas and Harish Kushalappa in the fray, it was the toughest field in many years for the 110m hurdles. Obviously, expectations were high.

Yet, no one had bargained for a national record or for such a runaway victory for Gurpreet either. The Punjab lad attacked the hurdles right from the word 'go' and by the half-way mark there was daylight between him and the rest of the field. Eventually, Gurpreet finished about five metres ahead of Sahib Singh, clocking 14.07s. The wind-speed was a negligible 0.2m/s.

Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, whose national record set in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had fallen, was there to witness the moment, but it was only much later that he congratulated the youngster after having left the ground without ascertaining the final timing that was being credited to Gurpreet.

Repeated announcements over the public address system led to everyone talking about the record. Gurpreet, having raised his arms and posed for the photographers at the finish, seemed to have failed to grasp the enormity of the occasion or the record. Randhawa's was India's oldest national record.

Randhawa himself looked prepared for such an eventuality. he never questioned the validity of the timing nor made an issue about certain technical lacunae regarding the hurdles. That, he agreed, did not affect the timing. Both during the heats and the final he had taken pains to ensure that the hurdles were placed properly and that the defective ones were removed. However, only 80 per cent of them had 'weights.'

"This record didn't mean much to me," said Randhawa, explaining that he had held the records in high jump, javelin throw and the decathlon as well. Yet, later when he hugged Gurpreet and muttered a few encouraging words in the youngster's ears, Randhawa was emotionally charged. Surely, when you lose a record you have held for as long as 37 years, you are bound to feel sad, but in Randhawa's case he did not show it. He drew solace from the fact that it was bettered in front of him.

"He used to tell me, you can do it", said Gurpreet about Randhawa's encouragement ever since he came close to bettering the national mark in 1999. That year, he was selected for the SAF Games in Kathmandu but had to return home with a Hepatitis-B infection. The same year he had made a rather uneventful foray into the World junior championships, placing fifth in the heats with 14.34s and getting eliminated.

A product of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) training centre at Ludhiana, Gurdeep, who hails from Chherata, Amritsar, is employed with the Railways, as a ticket collector at Ludhiana.

As Randhawa put it, Gurdeep has the potential to go under 14 seconds. "I hope he becomes the first Indian to break that barrier," said Randhawa who is one of only five Indians to have made an athletic final in the Olympics.

Outside of Gurpreet's national mark, which fetched him the Best Male Athlete award, one other national mark was set, in women's pole vault, and two meet records were bettered, in men's long jump and hammer throw.

Karamjeet Kaur's national mark of 3.17m in women's pole vault was a matter of routine. The Punjab girl, a gymnast-turned-pole vaulter had been raising that mark in almost every meet during the past two years and it came as no surprise that she did so again at Lucknow. Her previous mark, set in this year's Federation Cup at Bangalore, was 3.15m.

More creditable was the feat of long jumper Sanjay Kumar Rai who snatched the gold from Amrit Pal Singh with a last jump of 7.92m, his best for the season. This was top-drawer stuff from the Allahabad man whose temperament on the big stage has come into question after his dismal performances in Olympics and World championships.

Amrit Pal and Rai jumped 7.63m and on a countback, the former was in a position to win the gold when Rai, who has three jumps of eight metres in his career, came up with his last-gasp effort.

After having originally confirmed that the wind-gauge was not in position for Rai's last jump, since it had been moved to the track for the 110m hurdles, it was later claimed that the gauge was actually brought back and put in place just in time for Rai's last jump. Rai's 7.92 was shown to have been into a mild headwind of 0.7m/s. Shyam Kumar's 1992 meet mark was 7.89m.

Pramod Kumar Tiwari's 68.98 in hammer which erased Virendar Poonia's 1999 meet record of 67.41, was another fine effort. Tiwari had been trying to regain his national mark, now held by Ishtiaque Ahmed, but had to cope with injuries. The Allahabad thrower received a special cash prize from the UP Sports Minister at the end of the meet.

Without disturbing the records and yet being impressive was sprinter Anil Kumar. He showed little signs of coming back from a long lay-off following chicken pox, and in both the 100 metres and 200 metres, he outclassed the field. Anil did have a timing of 10.40 in the semis, leading to speculation that he might clock a new national mark in the final or come close to that, but it turned out to be nothing better than 10.50s. The Kerala sprinter felt he had run faster than what the timer showed.

Kerala's Jetty C. Joseph, with 6.27m in long jump, Bengal's Saraswati Dey with 11.71 in the 100m and Manisha Dey with 13.12 in triple jump were some of the women athletes who rose above mediocrity. Saraswati's effort landed her the Best Female Athlete award.

Several other athletes, notably Kerala's Shebin Joseph who won the men's 400m hurdles on his debut at the senior national level, and Anisha K. Vijayan, also of Kerala, who won a bronze each in the women's long jump and triple jump, showed the promise that should keep Indian athletics going. Jagannath Lakade of Maharashtra, in the long distance events, also caught the eye.

The distance runners had their task cut out - a worn-out track which was akin to rock and unbearable heat and humidity. In fact it was a miracle that the athletes came through in such apalling conditions. How the final day's events were scheduled for a 2.30 p.m finish while the athletes would have been better off with a late evening closure defied logic.

The whole programme, with the 100 metres following the 200m, in the original schedule, and three men's throws coming on the final day, lacked imagination and looked to have been prepared in a hurry and with little thought to the athletes.

To be fair to the local organising committee, saddled with the job when the National Games in Punjab got postponed - the inter-State meet was originally part of the games - it did a reasonably good job against odds. Led by a clutch of dedicated officials under the organising secretary, P. K. Srivastava, the programme, though behind schedule on most days, was completed without major hitches. Pan Parag and Pass Pass, two U.P. firms, chipped in with useful contributions towards sponsoring the meet.

The athletes and officials did complain about the lack of proper catering arrangements near the venue. Considering the distance involved from the city, getting a proper meal at such a place was an impossibility.

If in the end, many of the athletes and officials felt that another "routine exercise" was gone through, they were not off the mark. But then, an inter-State meet or an Open is part of a national calendar and it has to be completed.

That such meets are forced to be held on worn-out tracks that have outlived their utility and at venues where the basic minimum board and lodging facilities cannot be guranteed, should bring us to the topic of India hosting the Afro-Asian Games at a cost of Rs 150 crores.

"Oh well, we will get them new tracks. The Government has so many plans to lay new tracks." This is what the officials will say. Or else they will say "that's why we want to host these games, to improve our infrastructure." We will continue to hear such empty rhetoric year after year even as sportspersons sleep in dormitories and eat bun and biscuits for meals. It doesn't seem to matter when we can host delegates from 95 countries in five-star hotels, with free air tickets thrown in, all in the name of Afro-Asian solidarity.

The results:Men:

100m: 1. Anil Kumar (Ker) 10.50s, 2. Amit Saha (Ben) 10.83, 3. Clifford Joshua (Kar) 10.85; 200m: 1. Anil Kumar (Ker) 21.24s, 2. Clifford Joshua (Kar) 21.73, 3. Lokesh Fauzdar (Raj) 22.13; 400m: 1. P. Ramachandran (T.N) 46.78s, 2. Manoj Kumar (Ker) 46.84, 3. Anil Kumar Rohil (Raj) 46.88; 800m: 1. P. S. Primesh (Jharkhand) 1:50.34, 2. Ram Murty Yadav (U.P) 1:50.84, 3. Tej Karan Singh (M.P) 1:51.30; 1500m: 1. T. M. Sanjeevan (Ker) 3:50.64, 2. Shyam Behari Yadav (U.P) 3:51.74, 3. B. B. Manjunath (Kar) 3:53.12.

5000m: 1. K. Shankar (T.N) 14:29.22, 2. N. Gojen Singh (Man) 14:33.38, 3. Aman Saini (Jharkhand) 14:42.51; 10,000m: 1. N. Gojen Singh (Man) 31:19.37, 2. Jagannath Lokade (Mah) 31:28.07, 3. Harish Tiwari (U.P) 31:47.65

3000m steeplechase: 1. Rajesh Kumar (Har) 9:14.50, 2. Ranjan Kumar Jha (Jharkhand) 9:15.16, 3. C. D. Basavraj (Kar) 9:19.19; 110m hurdles: 1. Gurpreet Singh (Pun) 14.07 (National record, old 14.09), 2. Sahib Singh (Pun) 14.57, 3. P. T. Yesudas (Kar) 14.69; 400m hurdles: 1. Shebin Joseph (Ker) 53.05s, 2. Joseph Abraham (Ker) 53.70, 3. Harminder Singh (pun) 54.04

High jump: 1. Omveer Singh (Raj) 2.05m, 2. K. R. Roshan (Ker) 2.05, 3. D. Karthikeyan 2.00; Pole vault: 1. Shamsher Singh (Har) 4.70m, 2. Geesh Kumar (Ker) 4.65, 3. Ram Dhan (Kar) 4.60; Long jump: 1. Sanjay Kumar Rai (Ben) 7.92 (NMR, old 7.89), 2. Amrit Pal Singh (Pun) 7.63, 3. Satish Kumar (Del) 7.38; Triple jump: 1. Prit Pal Singh (Pun) 15.57m, 2. Amarjeet Singh (Pun) 15.45, 3. Saintison (Kar) 15.32.

Shot put: 1. Bahadur Singh (Pun) 19.55m, 2. Jaiveer Singh (Raj) 17.92, 3. Navpreet Singh (Pun) 17.62; Discus: 1. K. K. Sharma (Bih) 51.96m, 2. Amandeep Singh (Pun) 50.48, 3. Amarjeet Singh (Pun) 50.13; Hammer: 1. Pramod Kumar Tiwari (U.P) 68.98 (NMR, old 67.41m), 2. Vinod Kumar (Pun) 62.52, 3. Rupinder Pal Singh (Pun) 61.78; Javelin: 1. Sunil Kumar (Del) 72.16m, 2. Mohammed Fazal Ansari (Bih) 71.24, 3. B. S. Dubey (Mah) 71.22.

Decathlon: 1. Dharampal Singh (Har) 6612 pts, 2. Mandeep Kumar (M.P) 6587, 3. Jora Singh (Del) 6486.

4x100m relay: 1. Kerala 41.52, 2. Delhi 41.67, 3. Tamil Nadu 42.17; 4x400m relay: 1. Kerala 3:14.01, 2. Andhra Pradesh 3:16.60, 3. Bihar 3:18.85.

20,000m walk: 1. Gurdev Singh (Pun) 1:32:36, 2. Sita Ram (Raj) 1:33:34, 3. Vijay Gahlot (U.P) 1:35:03.


100m: 1. Saraswati Dey (Ben) 11.71s, 2. Kavita Pandya (Mah) 11.83, 3. Poonam Belliappa (Kar) 12.27; 200m: 1. Kavita Pandya (Mah) 24.05, 2. Mukti Saha (Ben) 24.45, 3. M. K. Syamanthakam (T.N) 24.71; 400m: 1. Sunita Dahiya (Har) 53.31s, 2. Jincy Philip (Ker) 53.36, 3. Soma Biswas (Ben) 54.57; 800m: 1. C. Latha (T.N) 2:05.83, 2. Harjeet Kaur (Pun) 2:06.47, 3. Sunita Dahiya (Har) 2:07.68; 1500m: 1. Geeta Manral (Del) 4:23.09, 2. Madhuri A. Singh (Pun) 4:28.53, 3. Harjeet Kaur (Pun) 4:29.99; 5000m: 1. H. Sagini Devi (Man) 17:31.04, 2. Vinita Thakur (H.P) 17:34.04, 3. Renuka Hede (Kar) 17:47.79; 10,000m: 1. Psuhpa Devi (Del) 37:29.72, 2. H. Sagini Devi (Man) 37:59.50, 3. Pampa Chanda (Ben) 38:46.15; 100m hurdles: 1. Soma Biswas (Ben) 14.10s, 2. Mukti Saha (Ben) 14.18, 3. Poonam Belliappa (Kar) 14.28; 400m hurdles: 1. Sapinder Kaur (Pun) 59.10s, 2. Sahebani Oram (Ori) 59.26, 3. Somona Mondal (Ben) 1:02.10.

High jump: 1. Harshini Kumari (Kar) 1.63m, 2. Sarita Patil (Mah) 1.63, 3. Jaicy Thomas (U.) 1.60 (In jump-off Harshini cleared 1.64m); Pole vault: 1. Karamjeet Kaur (Pun) 3.17m (National record, old 3.15m), 2. B. S. Preethie (Kar) 2.50, 3. Chetna Solanki (Bih) 2.20; Long jump: 1. Jetty C. Joseph (Ker) 6.27m, 2. Kalpana Das (Ben) 5.97, 3. Anisha K. Vijayan (Ker) 5.95; Triple jump: 1. Manisha Dey (Ben) 13.12m, 2. Kalpana Das (Ben) 12.80, 3. Anisha K. Vijayan (Ker) 12.16;

Shot put: 1. N. Latha (TN) 15.50m, 2. Harwant Kaur (Jharkhand) 15.34, 3. Chaitali Paul (Ben) 14.42; Discus: 1. Harwant Kaur (Jharkhand) 53.50m, 2. Sugan Yadav (Har) 52.44, 3. Swaranjeet Kaur (Pun) 49.97; Hammer: 1. Phoolpati Jhakar (Har) 52.07m, 2. Rajwinder Kaur (Pun) 48.83, 3. Archana Barar (Bih) 46.73; Javelin: 1. Manisha Mondal (Ben) 52.24m, 2. Suman Devi (U.P) 48.43, 3. N. M. Hemalatha (Kar) 47.56.

Heptathlon: 1. Uday Laxmi (A.P) 4878 pts, 2. J. J. Shobha (A.P) 4804 , 3. Rosemary Anthony (Ker) 4439.

4x100m relay: 1. Kerala 47.71s, 2. Bengal 47.76, 3. Karnataka 48.01; 4x400m relay: 1. Tamil Nadu 3:43.30, 2. Kerala 3:43.48, 3. Andhra Pradesh 3:45.75.

20,000m walk: 1. Jasmin Kaur (Pun) 1:52:41, 2. Rajdeep Kaur (Pun) 2:02:27, 3. S. Pavani (A.P) 2:05.39.

THE Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI), at its Executive Council meeting in Lucknow, constituted a three-member panel to look into the record set by Gurpreet Singh in the 110m hurdles at the 41st National Inter-State championships. In particular, the panel comprising J. S. Saini, C. K. Valson and P. K. Srivastava, was asked to find out how Gurbachan Singh Randhawa's 14.0s clocked at the Tokyo Olympics came to be regarded as 14.09s.

This is how it became 14.09.

The official time credited for Randhawa in the 1964 Olympics was 14.0s. Since an automatically timed result was available in Tokyo such timings were listed within parenthesis alongside the hand-timed performances.

Such timings, also taken at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, were considered as authentic for the purpose of listing national records, though official Olympic results continued to show timings up to a tenth of a second.

Wherever necessary, the Association of Track and Field Statisticians (ATFS) listed hand-timings and automatic timings, but over a period of time, with electronic timings taking precedence over hand-timings, these 'automatic' timings remained as the only record. In 1964 and 1968, the official timings were actually rounded down or up from an automatic time. The listed automatic timings were adjusted by adding 0.05s to account for the built-in delay in timing equipment of that period.

In Gurpreet's case, the hand-timing showed 13.9s and there should thus be no debate over whether Randhawa's 14.0 had been bettered or not as had happened with the 400m record of Milkha Singh (45.6s) which Paramjeet Singh bettered in Calcutta in 1998 with a timing of 45.70s.

If we are to convert age-old hand-timings into electronic, according to an accepted formula, but not for the purpose of determining a record, 45.6 will become 45.74 (Milkha's automatically timed record was listed as 45.73) and 14.0 will become 14.24s, not 14.09.

On his part, Randhawa was very sporting in acknowledging Gurpreet's record and never for a moment questioned the veracity of 14.09. Milkha was never satisfied that someone could better his record of 45.6 by clocking 45.70. It is another matter that Paramjeet now has a timing of 45.56, though that is yet to be ratified. It is altogether a different matter that Paramjeet is yet to clock a matching time in a meet abroad.

More stories from this issue

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment