Karnataka holds on

Creating ripples...Maharashtra's Surabhi Tipre.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

The girls from Maharashtra accounted for 13 of the 20 records that fell during the meet, with Surabhi Tipre and Kanchi Desai — Group I and II champions respectively — managing four each. Shreedutta Chidananda reports.

Host Karnataka may have held on to the overall championship for the 16th successive year, but there was no ignoring the brutal reworking of the record books by the Maharashtra girls' contingent at the recently concluded 37 {+t} {+h} Junior National Aquatic Championships at the Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre in Bangalore. The Maharashtra girls accounted for 13 of the 20 records that fell during the meet, with Surabhi Tipre and Kanchi Desai — Group I and II champions respectively — managing four each.

Akshay Krishna (Group I) and Pranam Babu (Group II) of Karnataka won the boys' titles, the former bagging three individual gold medals, one silver and a bronze and the latter five gold medals.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra and Kerala won the boys' and girls' water polo titles respectively.

Tipre's performance came as no surprise to anyone, least of all herself. The 17-year-old dominated the freestyle events, setting records in all four of her races — the 200m, 400, 800, and 1500. “It was quite easy actually,” she said.

Only in the 200m did Tipre face some competition — she finished narrowly ahead of Talasha Prabhu in 2:09.55 and in the process erased the latter's record of 2:11.29, set in 2007. “The 200 was totally unexpected,” she admitted. “I had settled for the silver even before the race, so to win (the gold) with a record was great.”

But the manner in which Tipre won her other three races was all too embarrassing, exposing the severe gulf in class. In the 400m freestyle, she finished 12 seconds ahead of the field in 4:34.04, clipping seven seconds off the existing record. In 800m freestyle, Tipre clocked 9:23.79 to improve upon her old mark (9:41.71), while in the 1500m freestyle she timed 17:46.88, which was also an improvement on her old record (18:42.00). “I knew I'd win these events,” she said, “but the way I did it was more than I expected.”

Tipre is one of a whole band of out-station athletes that trains at the Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre. Next on her agenda is the Senior Nationals in Jaipur in August, after which she hopes to qualify for the Asian Games, “if not the Commonwealth Games.” Kanchi Desai's performance was not too dissimilar. She won five gold medals, setting four records in the process, in the 200 and 400 freestyles and individual medleys. “My best times this year have been close to the records,” she said, “so I knew I'd come closer here.”

The 13 year-old swimmer's colossal margins of victory were perhaps as much a reflection of her own ability as her opponents' ineptitude. “My aim here was to win the overall championship,” she said, “and now I'm looking forward to the Senior Nationals.”

Rujuta Bhatt and Ananya Panigrahi, both from Maharashtra, were the other standout performers in Group II. Rujuta won four individual gold medals and a silver. She made a clean sweep of the butterfly events with a record in the 100m. Panigrahi won three gold medals and a silver. She won all her backstroke events, with a record in the 200m.

Talasha Prabhu of Goa and Priyanka Priyadarshini of Delhi, the only swimmers from outside Maharashtra to make any sort of mark in the girls' events, set three and two new records respectively.

The latter was like a breath of fresh air in Group II, dominating all three breaststroke events, missing the record only in the 200m, and that too narrowly. The boys' section witnessed an intense duel for the Group I championship between Saurabh Sangvekar of Maharashtra and eventual winner Akshay Krishna.

Kanchi Desai of Maharashtra on way to winning the 200m individual medely in girls Group II.-K. MURALI KUMAR

The two faced each other in four events, the 200m, 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles.

Sangvekar won the first (Krishna had to settle for the bronze; Jaywant Vijaya Kumar of Tamil Nadu won the silver), lost the second to Krishna by one-hundredths of a second, comfortably beat him in the third, and came a distant second to him in the fourth. Gokul Kamath, Sangvekar's coach, though pleased with his ward's performance, admitted he was surprised that Karnataka, traditionally dominant in Group I, had ceded ground.

“The girls, we knew they'd do well,” he said. “But the boys' Group I events, especially the distance races, have always belonged to Karnataka.” In Group II, Karnataka's Pranam Babu was unassailable in the backstroke races, and with five individual gold medals he deservedly walked away with the championship.

Also in the same group was the vastly unfancied Neil Contractor of Gujarat, who caught the eye with some inspiring performances.

Contractor won the 100m freestyle and 200m breaststroke and came second in the 50m and 100m breaststroke.

The only record in the boys' events came in the Group II 50m butterfly where Himanshu Dhakad (27.66s) of Madhya Pradesh broke K. Divakar's record of 27.71 set four years ago.

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Champion swimmers ... (from left) Abishiktha (Group IV girls), Sherlyn Meghna Devadason (Group III girls), Viraj Prabhu (Group III boys) and Ritish Malve (Group IV boys).-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Records fall in a heap

The 27th Sub-junior National Championships, held immediately after the junior meet at the same venue, threw up its share of stars. Following the example of their elders, the sub-juniors too did not disappoint in their pursuit of records, accounting for 18 new ones. Sherlyn Meghna Devadason (Tamil Nadu) accounted for four of those, and Monique Gandhi of Maharashtra three, the former pipping the latter to the individual championship in Group III. The points table at the end of the meet looked unchanged from the previous edition as the top three finished in the same order — Maharashtra at the head, followed by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Devadason's records came in the 50m and 100m butterfly, the 50m backstroke and the 200m individual medley. She competed with Monique Gandhi only in the 100m butterfly, finishing ahead by more than two seconds. Monique, for her part, won the gold in the 50m and 100m breaststrokes and the 200m freestyle, where she won by three-tenths of a second over V. Malavika (Karnataka). To her credit, Malavika overcame the disappointment of that opening day defeat by breaking the 50m and 100m freestyle records, much to the appreciation of the hitherto subdued home crowd.

Damini K. Gowda, Karnataka's great medal hope, could manage only a single gold at the meet. P. M. Abishiktha of Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, was declared the champion in Group IV, with three golds and a silver.

Viraj Dhokale of Maharashtra claimed the Group III boys' title with three golds and two new records. The second of those came in the 100m freestyle, where he broke Aaron D' Souza's six year-old record. Dhokale's team-mate Ritesh Mavle, meanwhile, took the Group IV title with three individual golds.

Malemnganba Meitei of SSCB and Swati Vidap of Maharashtra were adjudged the best divers in the boys' and girls' categories respectively. The Services boys diving team was a cut above the rest, claiming seven golds and three silvers.

* * * RECORD BREAKERS SUB-JUNIOR BOYS (GROUP III)

100m freestyle: Viraj Prabhu (Maharashtra) 1:02.15, NMR (Old: Aaron D'Souza, Karnataka, 1:02.60). 50m breaststroke: Viraj Prabhu 34.91, NMR (Old: Umesh Kumar, UP, 35.82). 4x50m medley relay: Maharashtra 2:12.86, NMR (Old: West Bengal, 2:13.31).

GROUP IV

50m backstroke: S. Siva (Karnataka) 35.50, NMR (Old: Yudhishtir Jaising, 35.67). 200m individual medley: S. Danush (TN) 2:49.15, NMR (Old: Sagar Kumar, Assam, 2:49.85). 4x50m freestyle relay: Maharashtra 2:10.33, NMR (Old: Maharashtra, 2:11.97).

GIRLS GROUP III

50m freestyle: V. Malavika (Karnataka) 29.71, NMR (Old: Rujuta Bhatt, 30.26). 100m freestyle: V. Malavika 1:03.70, NMR (Old: Pratima Kollali, Karnataka, 1:04.99). 200m freestyle: Monique Gandhi (Maharashtra) 2:17.52, NMR (Old: Kanchi Desai, 2:20.10). 50m butterfly: Sherlyn Meghna Devadason (TN) 31.78, NMR (Old: Rujuta Bhatt, 32.44). 100m butterfly: Sherlyn Meghna Devadason 1:09.73, NMR (Old: Rujuta Bhatt, 1:10.03). 50m breaststroke: Monique Gandhi 37.47, NMR (Old: Mankiran Kaur, Punjab, 38.85). 100m breaststroke: Monique Gandhi 1:23.99, NMR (Old: Gauri Desai, Maharashtra, 1:25.25). 50m backstroke: Sherlyn Meghna Devadason 34.17, NMR (Old: Record: Surabhi Tipre, 34.49). 200m individual medley: Sherlyn Meghna Devadason 2:38.71, NMR (Old: Kanchi Desai, 2:40.36). 4x50m freestyle relay: Maharashtra 2:02.50, NMR (Old: 2:05.23). 4x50m medley relay: Maharashtra 2:19.39, NMR (Old: TN, 2:21.76).

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A dedicated swimmer

Sherlyn Meghna Devadason (in pic) arrived in Bangalore a week before the Sub-junior Nationals began. The Chennai girl needed to get used to swimming in the cool, perpetually cloudy city, her coach explained. If she indeed had any problems getting used to the place, she didn't show them. The 11-year-old broke four National records at the meet — the 50m and 100m butterfly, the 50m backstroke and the 200m IM — and clinched the individual championship. “She is the most dedicated student I have seen,” said K. K. Mukundan, her coach. “She doesn't come late ever, doesn't miss a single day's training; I have never had to scold her.”

Although the Standard VI student of C. S. I. Ewart School won the championship last year too, she hadn't broken any records then. A year older, and still in Group III, Sherlyn didn't find it too hard this time. “She was coming close,” said Mukundan, “so it was expected.”

Under Mukundan's watchful eye, Sherlyn trains for five exhausting hours every day, at the Lady Andal School pool in Chetpet. Yet, she hasn't neglected her academics, said her coach. “Her parents have handled her studies and her swimming very well. They think of nothing else.”

Ebenezor Devadason, Sherlyn's father, was quick to thank her school. “They are really supporting her a lot,” he said.

Sherlyn, who will turn 12 in November, will be in Group II of the Junior category at the Nationals next year. But Mukundan is confident of his ward's good showing there despite tougher competition. “She will do well,” he said. “I have no doubts.”

* * * FOR THE RECORD JUNIOR BOYS (GROUP II)

50m butterfly: Himanshu Dhakad (MP) 27.66s (Old: K. Divakar, TN, 27.71s).

JUNIOR GIRLS (GROUP I)

50m freestyle: Talasha Prabhu (Goa) 27.49s, (Old: Talasha Prabhu 27:56s). 100m freestyle: Talasha Prabhu (Goa) 59.50s, NMR (Old: Talasha Prabhu, 1:00.56). 200m freestyle: Surabhi Tipre (Maharashtra) 2:09.55 (Old: Talasha Prabhu, Goa, 2:11.29). 400m freestyle: Surabhi Tipre 4:34.04 (Old: Surabhi Tipre, 4:41.47). 800m freestyle: Surabhi Tipre 9:23.79 (Old: Surabhi Tipre, 9:41.71). 1500m freestyle: Surabhi Tipre 17:46.88 (Old: Surabhi Tipre, 18:42.00). 200m individual medley: Talasha Prabhu (Goa) 2:31.64, NMR (Old: V. Tejaswini, Karnataka, 2:32.53). 4x100m medley relay: Karnataka 4:49.82, NMR (Old: Karnataka, 4:50.25).

GROUP II

200m freestyle: Kanchi Desai (Maharashtra) 2:12.94, NMR (Old: T. Sneha, Karnataka, 2:13.69). 400m freestyle: Kanchi Desai 4:39.68, NMR (Old record: Surabhi Tipre, 4:41.83). 50m breaststroke: Priyanka Priyadarshini (Delhi) 35.71, NMR (Old: Gauri Desai, Maharashtra, 37.06). 100m breaststroke: Priyanka Priyadarshini 1:20.32 (in heats), NMR (Old: M. M. Venpa, TN, 1:21.55). 100m butterfly: Rujuta Bhatt (Maharashtra) 1:06.81, NMR (Old: Arhatha Magavi, Karnataka, 1:07.29). 200m backstroke: Ananya Panigrahi (Maharashtra) 2:32.25, NMR (Old: Ananya Panigrahi, 2:33.74). 200m individual medley: Kanchi Desai 2:31.43, NMR (Old: Madhavi Giri, Karnataka, 2:33.12). 400m individual medley: Kanchi Desai 5:18.89, NMR (Old: Madhavi Giri, 5:27.93). 4x100m freestyle relay: Maharashtra 4:21.97, NMR (Old: Karnataka, 4:23.25). 4x200m freestyle relay: Maharashtra 9:27.40, NMR (Old: Karnataka, 9:31.37). 4x100m medley relay: Maharashtra 4:53.90, NMR (Old: Karnataka, 4:56.44).