Imported equipment and all that

D.B. Ratheesh displays his 500m single sculls gold. He won the 2000m race, too-K. RAMESHBABU

WITH so much of money invested on various imported equipment, (some of which failed to arrive in time) the burgeoning National Games included competitions in virtually every known sport. Yachting, for instance was making an appearance in the Games after a six-year gap. With host Andhra Pradesh importing even players with an intent of making a mark in the Games, there was some interest on whether the move would bring dividends. It did to some extent, though for the most part tradition was maintained like in wrestling, kabaddi, rowing, kayaking and canoeing. AP's big gain was in archery, while it finished behind Services in rowing, pushing Kerala to third place.

Rowing: The Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) and host Andhra Pradesh dominated the five-day competitions held at the Hussain Sagar Lake, winning eight and five gold medals respectively. While the Services squad, virtually the Indian team, was expected to do well, Andhra Pradesh's good show was a revelation (five golds, four silvers and six bronzes). The most creditable performance from the host came in the 500m coxless fours where Arun J. Paul, Shiju, K. Subash and Elbinson Thampi edged out favourite Punjab, which had three members who had represented the country in the 1998 Asian Games for the silver medal, Services having ensured the gold. Experts believed that the good show by Andhra rowers was because of the six months training they had under the stewardship of the Hyderabad-based Secretary of the Rowing Federation of India, C.P.S. Deo.

The late arrival of the imported equipment meant the competition had to be conducted with the existing boats but that did not come in the way of performance. D.B. Ratheesh of SSCB, for instance won the 500m single sculls with plenty to spare after having bagged the 2000m race earlier.

Shalini Varghese and Manjula Roy...gold in the 2000m double sculls.-K. RAMESHBABU

In the women's section, AP had a better deal through rowers such as Shalini Varghese, Manjula Roy, Monalisa Mohanti and Elizabeth. Kerala also did well with Jincymol Varghese one of the notable performers.

Kabaddi: Haryana men and West Bengal women clinched the gold in the kabaddi competitions which were held at the Municipal stadium in Hyderabad. In winning the gold, last year's runner up Haryana had shocked defending champion, Delhi with a 29-25 win, thanks mainly to the excellent display by `raider' Ramesh Kumar and `catcher' Pradeep Kumar. Delhi had depended too much on the aggressive style of Busan Asiad gold medallist Sundar Singh, but this did not prove enough.

In the semi-finals, Delhi faced not only Andhra Pradesh but the additional challenge of the 3000-strong vociferous support for the host. Captain Kuldeep Singh played a stellar role for Delhi, while Andhra — despite having imports such as international Honappa and Charlanathan — could not make much headway. Delhi won 18-11 after leading 15-5 at the halfway stage.

Vikas Pandey...asserting his class in gymnastics.-M. MOORTHY

In the other semi-final, Haryana defeated Services 23-19 after leading 14-7 at the break. For Haryana Joginder Singh, Pradeep and Ramesh Kumar played the key role. Naveen Kumar and Ram Maher singh tried gamely, but in vain, to keep Services in contention.

In the women's section, West Bengal had a task in hand to quell the spirited efforts of host Andhra Pradesh. The score line, 25-21, aptly reflected the close match. Arjuna Awardee Neeta Dadwe was the player to watch for Andhra Pradesh. In the semi finals, West Bengal edged out Karnataka in a thriller, the bronze medallist in the previous Games held in Punjab (33-32), while Andhra Pradesh had a nail-biting encounter against Haryana before booking a place in the final.

Gymnastics: Punjab was the surprise packet in the gymnastics events held at the Saroornagar Indoor stadium. The northern visitors won six gold, two silver and five bronze medals to out shine pre-Games favourite Uttar Pradesh, which had to settle for five gold and three bronze medals. Equally noteworthy was the way Andhra Pradesh staked a claim for honours and ended up finishing third with four gold, 10 silver and one bronze medals. For the host, imported player, Tumpa Debnath put up a brilliant show.

Rajani Sharma...the star of the show in rhythmic gymnastics.-M. MOORTHY

The grand venue with all the latest imported equipment, provided the right ambience for the leading gymnasts to present their skills. U.P.'s hopes lay on the 22-year old international Vikas Pandey, who did not disappoint as he came up tops in the floor exercise, pommel horse and parallel bars to clinch the all-around honours. For one, who had bagged eight gold medals in the previous Punjab Games, this seemed a below par show for Pandey. Still Pandey, as also Mayank Srivastava, both late entrants, ensured that the host's sway in the gymnastic events was limited. Vikas and Mayank were not there in UP's original list since they did not take part in the previous Senior nationals because of being away in the Commonwealth Games preparatory camp. Their entry had to come under the `special persmissible quota of two' for each state.

For the first time, U.P. found it had a tough competition in hand. Nothing reflected this better than the way Gaurav Sharma of Punjab, V. Kalyan Gound of A.P. and Lalit Kumar of Punjab eclipsed U.P. competitors in the Roman rings, the three finishing in that order. For the host, 19-year old A. Sarath Chandra delighted with a gold in horizontal bar (8.325) and a silver each in floor excercises and vaulting horse. Equally gifted was 17-year old B.N. Shivakumar, the reigning junior national champion, who proved the surprise packet for the host with three silvers (pommel horse, parallel bars and all-around championship). His promising performance also evoked immediate response from the CRPF top brass, which offered him appointment as a sub-inspector.

In the women's section, the focus was on 17-year old Tumpa Debnath, an Intermediate second year student of the Sri Sathya Sai Junior college in Hyderabad. Coached by Andhra's chief coach, G. Ravinder, Tumpa had won the nationals a record 11 times and had also participated in the World Championship and the SAARC competition. Tumpa won gold in vaulting horse (8.325) with Rupali Halder (West Bengal) and Asmita Chitale (Maharashtra) settling for the silver and bronze respectively.

Sandeep Srikanth...gold in the Laser Standard class in yachting.-C.V.SUBRAMANIYAM

The only surprise was when Tumpa dropped out of the medals bracket in the balancing beam. In fact she had done well but inexplicably forgot to perform the 360 degree turn, which was to prove a costly lapse for she was pushed to fourth place. Overall, however, she had won three gold in vaulting horse, floor exercise and the all-around individual championship.

Punjab's Rajani Sharma stole the show in rhythmic gymnastics, winning the gold in ribbon and the all-around individual championship while her compatriot, Dimple picked up the hoop gold scoring 17.60 points.

Fencing: One of the first events to get underway after the grand opening ceremony, fencing was to suffer from confusion initially because of a lack of communication. Even as the teams arrived news spread that the event had been postponed because some of the vital equiptment had not arrived. Moreover the venue was full of Sepak Tekraw participants who had begun practice sessions. For the Fencing officials all this was a shock, for it was a fact that nobody initially knew where `The piste' or metallic mat which serves as the playing area, was lying, at the Mumbai customs or somewhere in Hyderabad! The key reason was that the Andhra Pradesh Fencing Asociation Secretary had resigned his post just a couple of days prior to the Games and that meant everyone was in the dark.

Mithu Nahak bagged the gold in thrilling fashion in the Laser 4.7 class. He is flanked by Vikas Kapila (silver) and S.S.Chouhan (bronze).-C.V.SUBRAMANIYAM

It became clear that fencing would not make a scheduled start. Since Sepak Tekraw was listed to start after the fencing event the confusion was twice confounded. As it happened, by the time order was resotored, the competition had to be gone through hurriedly with late finishes being the order much to the discomfiture of the fencers. Manipur had the strongest contingent, both in the men's and the women's sections. Still, it was Punjab's Parambir Singh who bagged the first gold at the expense of a Manipuri, Dipak Metei, in the men's epee individual event. What stood out was Parambir's superior swordsmanship against the occasional spark of Dipak. In the women's section Manipur's E. Gita Devi duelled past C. Rukmini of Karnataka with better footwork, stronger parries and thrusts to win the foil event. Her statemate Harini Devi beat Rupiya Devi (who represented Andhra Pradesh) with comfort in the sabre event.

As though the initial difficulties were not enough, the conduct of the event suffered further through frequent power failures on the second day. Manipur dominated to sweep all the fixtures. The triumph of Mangalamba Meitei (men's foil) and Gita Devi (epee individual) apart, the state annexed the men's and women's team events. Mangalamba was to add the sabre event later to complete a double.

Ironically the imported equipment for the meet like the electronic vests, critical for accurate scoring in foils, sabres and epees arrived from Hungary on the final day. Nobody will know why there was this delay but what will happen to this prized equipment and how well it will be used in the future, only the Fencing Association of India can provide the answer.

The victorious Services team in the kayaking 500m event, S. Ashish Kumar, P.K.Baroi, P.S.Madhu and Karmar Toppo. The star of the meet was Toppo.-K. RAMESHBABU

Equestrian: The equestrian event this time lacked the sparkle of previous years. With the FEI show-jumping competition getting staged in Kolkata almost concurrently, the entries were depleted for the event in the Games thereby robbing it of much of the challenge and colour.

Services Sports Control Board with its vast manpower and cavalry backing, held the trump card in many of the events held at Hakimpet. Its team comprising Shaitan Singh, Sunil Shiv Das, Bhoom Singh and Hanumanth Singh easily bagged the dressage event logging 1377 points. However, Karnataka gave the Services team a close run in show jumping, the latter emerging winner by a one point margin.

M.S. Rathore of Madhya Pradesh showed fine mastery to bag the individual dressage event while Wing Commander I.J. Lamba negotiated the hurdles adeptly to bag the show jumping individual competition. Madhya Pradesh's Dalbir singh, a head constable, held supreme in the tent pegging event.

Of the eight gold medals at stake in equestrian, SSCB bagged three as did MP while Haryana took two. Over all Lamba and Gulab Singh emerged the top performers in the competition.

Kripa Shankar an Arjuna awardee, bagged the gold in the 55kg freestyle wrestling event.-K. RAMESHBABU

Yachting: Organised in Visakhapatnam, yachting returned to the Games fold after a gap of six years. Services looked the best prepared and the results showed as its competitors won as many as four gold and a silver medal. The going was tough for the top-rung yachtsman from Maharashtra, Faroke Tarapore, who could manage only a second position in the 420 class along with Vikas Kapila besides a bronze in the new class, Hobie Cat 16 in the company of Nitin Mongia. Tarapore and Kapila even had the discomfiture of being fined five penalty points for jumping the starter's gun in the second race. The duo did well in the next two races only to suffer a slump in form in the next two. Thus, Services went ahead on points to clinch the gold. Services claimed the gold in the Hobie Cat event also while Tarapore and Mongia despite putting up a good fight had to settle for the bronze. Haryana's N.K. Yadav and Surender Saini bagged the silver.

The competition, held off the Rushikonda beach, about 15 km from the city, witnessed varying wind conditions as also sea currents. In fact, the latter part of the first day's races had to be cancelled, while on the penultimate day, heavy winds led to the toppling of the hobie Cat vessels of the Goa and the Punjab teams. The two teams could not complete the races.

In the laser standard class competition, Tamil Nadu's Sandeep Srikanth had fluctuating fortunes. This meant that he had to finish among the first four in the seventh and final race to win the honours. The lanky youngster came fourth and clinched the gold medal. In the laser radial competition, Rajesh Choudhry of Services was comfortably placed right through to assure himself of the gold by the fifth race. The interest was more for the silver where Sandeep Kapoor (Punjab) pipped Amit Aravind of AP.

The keenest competition came in the Enterprise class where the gold was decided only in the last race and the honour went to Maharashtra's R. Mahesh and R.S. Dhulaji even though they were penalised in the previous race. Services' Gautam Dutta nad Utpal Sridhar prevailed over Haryana's Naresh Yadav and Surender Saini for the silver. A lot more interesting was Mithu Nahak's win from being second placed behind Vikas Kapila till the third race in the laser 4.7 class. The Services man drew away in the next four races to win on a convincing note.

K.Minimol caught the eye in women's kayaking.-K. RAMESHBABU

Kayaking and Canoeing: Services and Kerala held sway in this sport which was conducted at the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad. Services bagged 10 gold medals, while Kerala settled for five. Host Andhra Pradesh was only slightly behind, garnering four gold, 10 silver and two bronze medals to take the third spot overall, which incidentally was the state's best show ever.

A unique phenomenon this time was that new meet records came in all the 200m and 500m races, an indication perhaps that the participants were inspired by the Denmark-made equipment imported at a cost of Rs 50 lakhs.

The opening day's attraction was the skilful effort of Services' P.K. Baroi in winning the K-1 1000 race clocking 4:25.67s. AP's Prashant Thomas and Kerala's D.V.C. Negi (4:30.07) bagged the silver and bronze respectively. Baroi had a hand in Services winning the K-4 1000 race with a time of 3:34.56. Karnataka and Punjab came next in that order. In the individual race in K-4 1000, the Manipur boy, Amuten Singh, who works for EME, Secunderabad, did the host proud with a gold medal winning effort in 5:04.03 s. G. Ajit Kumar (MP) and Suresh Kumar (Delhi) were the silver and bronze medal winners respectively.

Services and AP dominated the first day, but Kerala came to the fore in the later stages to win a handful of gold medals. Still the star of the meet was SSCB's Karmar Toppo , who won the K-2 200 gold combining with Ashish Kumar and also the K-1 race with a new Games record of 36 secs flat (prev 42.20s). Toppo then helped Services win the K-4 team event with another record effort. And to cap it all, he was the cynosure of all eyes in the 500 m races where he combined with P.K. Baroi to win the gold and then helped his team to win also.

Shivnath Nagesia, the FITA round men's individual event champion.

In the women's section, Kerala's K. Minimol did the star turn winning the K-1 500m and the K-2 event with D. Jessy. She also helped the state in the team events. Andaman and Nicobar also came into the gold medal list when B. Srimathi won the K-1 200m and also helped the Union territory in the K-4 event. Minimol and Jessymol had won Kerala the gold in the K-2 200m.

Wrestling: The competition witnessed a drama before the start with the AP team resorting to a dharna protesting the Wrestling Federation's dictat that the state cannot use the services of its imports. Even though the host's ploy of getting the best talents in various disciplines to represent it had triggered a simmering discontent among the participants in general in the Games it was only at the wrestling venue that the issue came into the open. The AP Wrestling Association had lined up virtually the leading lights in the sport in the country at least six months in advance (prerequsite for taking part) . With the WFI taking a decisive stand that wrestlers who had represented their respective states in the previous national championship cannot change affiliation, the matter came to a boil. The IOA top brass had to intervene to work out a compromise. AP was then barred from utilising three of its `imports'.

Interestingly the five gold medals that AP won had all come from the imports _ Arjuna Awardee Kripa Shankar (55 kg freestyle), former world junior champion Mukesh Khaitri (55 kg Greco-Roman), senior national gold medallist Ravinder Mann (74 kg Greco-Roman), Busan Asiad participant and national gold medallist Alka Tomar (59 kg women freestyle) and Manisha Arya (63 kg women freestyle).

The drama and the advantage for the host notwithstanding, traditional forces Punjab and Haryana ruled the roost. Punjab accounted for seven gold medals besides four silver and seven bronze, Haryana bagged six gold, five silver and five bronze to share the honours.

Unlike other disciplines where crowd participation was less, wrestling attracted capacity attendance. The bouts in super heavyweight categories in both Greco-Roman and freestyle proved to be big hits.

Jharkhand set a meet record in the FITA round women's team event. Left to right: Jhanu Hansda, Bansaralin Dhar, Dola Banerjee and Keiengunuo Theuno.

Archery: Host AP stole the show winning three of the eight gold medals at stake besides , a silver and a bronze in the competitions held at the Saroornagar sports complex. For a change Services took back stage with Jharkhand and Manipur, bagging two gold medals each and placing ahead.

A highlight of the competition was the record-breaking performance from B. Lucy Devi of Manipur in the Indian Round women's individual event with scores of 283 (50m) and 320 (30m) for an aggregate of 603 points. The previous best was 587 by her statemate B. Geetanjali Devi. Radha Bai (Jharkhand) provided stiff challenge but with scores of 304 and 291, had to be content with silver while R. Suryamukhi of Manipur (287 and 302) bagged the bronze. Lucy then combined with Suryamukhi and Bombayla Devi to win the team gold with an impressive aggregate of 1763 points (a Games record). Jharkhand comprising Radha Bai, Manjudha Soi and Sumanlata Murmu (1688) picked the silver and UP (Renu, Punya Sharma and Mamata) the bronze with 1684 points.

In the men's section U. Prasad Rao of AP provided a surprise, winning the gold in the indian round individual competition with an aggregate of 620 points. Manipur's G. Arun Kumar (612) and Dipul Boro of Assam (601) finished in that order. Prasad Rao like Lucy for Manipur, inspired AP to team gold in this event with an aggregate tally of 1804 points. V. Premnath and A. Durgaiah were the other participants. Manipur (G. Arun Sharma, Y.M. Magang and Simarjit Singh) with 1766 got the silver and Delhi's Harinder Kumar, Radhey Shyam and Harinath Tiwari (1723) picked the bronze.

Led by Dola Banerjee, Jharkhand raised a tally of 232 points which is a new meet record in the FITA round women's team event and also an improvement of the state's previous best in the Amaravathi nationals last year. A product of the Tata Archery Academy, Dola showed her form in winning the individual gold with 108 points. Manipur's Bhagyabathi Chanu (104) collected the silver.

In the men's individual event, Jharkhand's 19-year old Shivnath Nagesia, who represented AP, claimed the gold, edging out Services' Harish Ch. Kerai by a mere two points (103 to 101). But Services bagged the team gold.

There was much more drama in the FITA round men's team event where AP at one stage appeared cruising to gold before 23-year old Seetharamudu missed the target even as the crowd had begun to cheer. That slip ultimately was to cost AP the gold, Services annexing that . Jharkhand settled for the bronze. The Games also witnessed the eclipsing of triple Olympian Limba Ram. The veteran failed to qualify for the final round in the FITA round. In a way it also reflected the tough competition now as compared to earlier days when there were few archers. With an increasing number of competitors now, archers can expect better times ahead.

Handball: Punjab was the defending champion in both the men's and the women's sections, but the Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy indoor stadium witnessed a change of order this time. Chattisgarh came to the forefront to clinch the men's title, beating Services in an exciting final (41-37) while the women's final was even more close with Manipur pipping Kerala 26-23. While Punjab was able to salvage a bronze in the men's section, the women faded away with a fourth place finish. In Group A, the tussle was essentially amongst Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra with the J and K going out, while in Group B, Services and Chattisgarh ended the run of MP and UP. The host's presence ensured a reasonable gathering, but Services was to stop it in the semi-final thanks to Praseed Kumar's prolific scoring. However, Punjab gave a fight to Chattisgarh before the latter ensured the downfall of the defending champion. In the women's section , national champion Kerala and Chattisgarh progressed from Group A sending out Maharashtra and Andhra, while Manipur and Punjab entered from Group B at the expense of MP and Chandigarh. In the semi-finals, Kerala beat Punjab, while Manipur overcame an initial struggle to down Chattisgarh.

— By V. V. Subrahmanyam, D. Ravi Shankar, M. C. Raman and G. Narasimha Rao