Karnataka re-asserts its overall supremacy

THE SUCCESS of an aquatic championship is often determined by the volume of records that it generates and the 57th senior National aquatic championship, held at the Subhas Sarobar pool in Kolkata, can be deemed as an outstanding success as it spawned eight National records and 14 meet marks in the course of the six-day event.

KHALYAN N. ASHOK

The Karnataka team which emerged as the overall champion.-PICS: K. GOPINATHAN

THE SUCCESS of an aquatic championship is often determined by the volume of records that it generates and the 57th senior National aquatic championship, held at the Subhas Sarobar pool in Kolkata, can be deemed as an outstanding success as it spawned eight National records and 14 meet marks in the course of the six-day event.

There were a couple of factors, which spurred the splurge of records in the meet. Firstly, with the Afro-Asian Games round the corner, the swimmers were striving to do their best and quite a few were gunning for the Olympic qualifying marks and they were tapered to do their best. Another factor was a good turn out and unlike last edition at Thrissur, where those who were in the National camp, were forced to drop out of the meet, the one at Kolkata, had a full house, barring the absence of Rehan Poncha, who was training in Australia. This added pep to the competitions, especially in the women's section.

The story of the National championship, always runs on predictable lines, with the star-studded Karnataka dominating the women's section, and Services, Railways and Police battling it out for honours in the men's section. The script did not alter much at Kolkata, but there were some great races, heartbreaking losses and a poignant moment for a few like the veteran and National record holder, Sebastian Xavier, who had to make an unceremonious exit after being disqualified in his only race of the meet, 50 metre freestyle, as he jumped the gun, literally.

Karnataka re-asserted its overall supremacy with 287 points, with its women's squad contributing a major chunk of it (217 points), while Police pushed to second position overall at 252 points, claimed the men's team honours.

Railway's Akbar Ali Mir on way to setting a meet record in the men's 200m individual medley. He also won the 200m backstroke and the 200m butterfly events.-

The other contender Railways was not left behind either, as Akbar Ali Mir, the local hero, who spearheaded its challenge took the individual honours in the men's section while, Shikha Tandon of Karnataka, with a dazzling display that earned her many fans, was adjudged the best female swimmer.

Shikha's tally — three National records and one meet record was a testimony to her talent and tenacity. After she missed out on the last senior Nationals, she was determined to do well and she performed when it really mattered. She swept the 50m freestyle, 50m and 100m backstroke with new National records and set a meet mark in the 100m freestyle.

Shikha opened her account on the second day, when she became the first Indian woman to go under 27 seconds in the 50m freestyle, clocking 26.61 seconds and it even surpassed the Olympic qualifying time of 26.92 seconds and in the process she bettered her own National best of 27.04 seconds, clocked at the Asian Age Group championship at Macau in August. Shikha made her intentions of going under 27 seconds, very clear, when she lowered the meet mark of Nisha Millet (28.01 seconds), clocking 27.57 seconds in the morning heats and that too went overboard in the final later.

More than the 50m freestyle record, the one in 100m backstroke, must have been sweeter for Shikha, as she beat her arch-rival and team-mate Nisha Millet, in a keen race (1:06.95), which bettered her own National record (1:07.82) set in the Barcelona World championship in July and the 1995 meet mark of Sangeeta Rani Puri of Delhi, which stood at 1:08.06.

The National record No. 3 came in the 50m backstroke heats, when she clocked 31.32 seconds, improving her National best of 31.40 set in the Asian Age Group championship at Macau in August. Shikha, however, finished at 31.44 seconds in her gold winning effort in the final.

Shikha's best shot was expected to be the 100m freestyle, in which she made the qualifying cut for the Olympics by clocking 58.32 seconds, swimming the first 100m in the Indian team's 4 x 100m relay at the World championship. But she came short of it, registering 58.91 seconds, which, however, erased Nisha Millet's 1997 meet best of 1:00.45.

Nisha Millet and Richa Misra kept pace with Shikha in her gold quest and record breaking spree. Nisha Millet, on a comeback trail after a surgery to remove a non-malignant tumour on her spine, made a determined effort as she claimed golds in the 1500m freestyle with a National record of 18 minutes 42.72 seconds. It certainly vindicated her faith in staying the distance and what was really satisfying for the 21-year-old Banglorean, was her 200m freestyle effort, where she bettered her own meet mark of 2:08.66 with 2:07.92, though it was still under her National best of 2:06.81. The 400m freestyle too proved to be a memorable outing for Nisha, who led from start to finish to win in 4:33.55, sinking Shikha's mark of 4:38.03.

Shikha Tandon of Karnataka, who created a National record in the women's 100m backstroke, being greeted by her arch-rival and team-mate, Nisha Millet (right).-

Nisha's fourth gold came in the 200m backstroke. For someone, who was forced to stay away from the senior Nationals, for nearly four years, a comeback effort, which yielded four golds and a silver, was not a bad show at all.

In terms of appetite for records, Richa was as hungry as Shikha Tandon. The 19-year-old butterfly ace, who was named the `Best Sportswoman' of the National Games 2002, came back to this happy hunting ground with renewed vigour. In the 2000 meet at Kolkata, Richa, topped with a haul of 10 golds, but in 2003, her priorities were different. "I am here to break a few records, that gives me lot more satisfaction than winning a medal,'' said Richa on the eve of the meet. She kept her word, with a clean sweep in butterfly with National record in 100m, meet marks in 50 and 200m.

Richa swam a spectacular 100m race, blazing to gold, hacking the field in a superb time of 1:04.81, lowering her own National record of 1:05.22 set in the National Games at Hyderabad in 2002. Bula Choudhry's 19-year- old meet mark of 1:06.19 took a beating in the process.

Richa's 50 came in 30.55 seconds, which clipped two hundredth of a second of the meet mark held by Meghana Narayan of Karnataka set in 1998. Richa's other big one was the 200m butterfly, where she clocked 2:19.63, for a meet record. She was looking forward to breaking her own National mark of 2:19.58, which she set in the World championship at Barcelona in July, bettering the National best of 2:19.60 of Bula Choudhry (1986). But Richa, was slower at the 100 turn and had to be content with a meet record.

Mandar Anand Divasi scored a treble with golds in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events.-

Richa scooped up one more gold, winning the 400m individual medley, improving her 2000 meet mark of 5:15.28 with 5:08.57.

The Karnataka teenager, V. Sivaranjani, who has loads of promise after being pushed to the second place by Nisha in the 400m freestyle and by Richa in the 100m and 200m butterfly, tore off the runner-up tag winning the 200m individual medley with a new meet time of 2:28.6 and the 200m breaststroke, again with new meet record of 2:49.68. Last year's best swimmer of the meet, Ambica N.S. Iyengar, had to be content with golds in the 800m freestyle and 100m breaststroke.

The other girls, who made the medal bracket included Cyriac sisters, Soni and Sumi from Kerala, Bhavana Sharma of Police, Reshma Millet, D.Mrudula and Archana Bhushan of Karnataka.

G.B. Sharath, who won the one metre spring board, was adjudged the best diver of the championship.-

Unlike, the women's competition, which was awash with records, the men's events were almost on a low key though there were some scintillating performances from T. A. Sujith of Services, Mandar Anand Divasi of Police, Akbar Ali Mir of Railways and K. Rajeev of Kerala.

Rajeev and Sujith accounted for the two National records set in the men's section. Rajeev, the lanky lad from Kerala, who trains in Chennai, in fact, opened the meet on a record breaking note. He bettered the 50m butterfly meet record of 26.44 in the morning heats with an impressive 26.37, which was hundredth of a second below the National best of Rahul Batra of Karnataka. But the Kerala youngster came back for more, as he cracked that too, clocking 26.27 seconds in the final.

Sujith, was at his best in the 100m freestyle, as he blitzed in 53.15 seconds, lowering Sebastian Xavier's National best of 53.65 set in 1995. Sujith also grabbed gold in the 50 m freestyle, 100m butterfly and silver in 200m freestyle.

Deepak Kumar Singh, the breast stroke specialist, as expected claimed the golds in the 50 and 100m events but skipped the 200m, and an the enterprising Gairik Bardhan of Bengal, who was in his shadows in the 50 and 100, won the gold.

Mamoni Mondal, who struck gold in the high board and one metre spring board, was the best female diver.-

Mandar Anand Divasi, is steadily supplanting veteran Kailash in the distance. The 18-year-old Divasi, broke Kailashnath's National mark of 8:51.24, with 8:45.88 in the 800m freestyle final and he also won the 400m freestyle and 1500 m freestyle events. Amar Muralidhran of Police, came out of the shadow of a recent drug ban, to win the 200m freestyle.

In the backstroke, V. Arun of Tamil Nadu, a protege of former ace, Wilson Cherian, set a new meet record of 28.17 seconds in the heats and finished with gold clocking 28.77 in the final. T. K. Senthil Kumar took the gold in the 100 and Akbar Ali Mir won the 200.

The 19-year Mir, after a lacklustre first two days, was in his element from the third day. Besides the 200m backstroke gold, the Railway ace, revelled in home pool to notch up meet marks in the 200m butterfly (2:08.17) and 200m individual medley (2:12.29) to be crowned `the best swimmer' of the meet.

One surprise winner was Srinand Srinivas of Karnataka, who stunned the leader, Arjun Muralidharan of Police in the 400m individual medley.

In the relay events, Karnataka's women quartet of Ambica N. S. Iyengar, Reshma Millet, V. Sivaranjani and Nisha Millet, shattered the National mark of 9:02.37 set by the Indian team of Shikha Tandon, Ambica, Sivaranjani and Richa Misra in the World championship in July, clocking 9:01.27. Karnataka girls also won the 4x100m freestyle with a new meet mark of 4:08.91 and 4x100 medley. In the men's section, Police won the 4x200m freestyle with a new meet record of 8:13.38 and 4x100 medley relay while, Services topped in 4x100m freestyle with new meet record 3:40.46.

Sharath, Mamoni dazzle

The 15-year old, G. B. Sharath of Karnataka and Railway's top gun, Manmoni Mondal called the shots on the diving board. Sharath won the one metre spring board gold and accumulated enough points in high board and three-metre springboard, to edge out seasoned contenders like Sachin Tripathi, Harish Analdas and Yogesh Watve.

Mamoni Mondal of Railways, however, had a smooth passage to the top spot as she took gold on the high board and struck again in one metre springboard. The lone diving meet record came from the talented Taniya Ganguly of Railways, who won the three metre spring board event with 359.75 points, improving her own meet record (2002) of 354.95 points. Railways reigned supreme as the overall team champion.

Services, Kerala bag titles

Close encounters marked the waterpolo event. Services and Kerala bagged the waterpolo titles in the men's and women's sections respectively. Services avenged last year's defeat, beating Railways 8-6 in the title contest with a fine display by Sreekumar, who slammed three goals while Kerala, edged out Police 5-4 in the women's final.

Bengal might lack the infrastructure of Karnataka or Maharashtra, but it is the cradle of Indian swimming. It has quite a few promising youngsters and the Bengal Swimming Association deserves credit for running the event in a smooth manner, overcoming few odds, like an outdated electronic score-board.

The results: Men:

Freestyle: 50m: 1. T. A. Sujith (SSCB 24.23); 2. V. Arun (TN 24.56); 3. Saiju Joseph (SSCB 24. 61). 100m: 1. T. A. Sujith (53.15 NR and NMR. Old: 53.65); 2. Rahul Batra (Kar 54.36); 3. Benoy Sebastian (SSCB 55.58). 200m: 1. Amar Muralidharan (Pol 2:00.07); 2. T. A. Sujith (2:00.80); 3. Rahul Batra (2:00.85).

400m: 1. Mandar Anand Divasi (Pol 4:13.33); 2. Kailashnath (Pol 4:16.41); 3. Terismon Thomas (SSCB 4:21.61). 800m: 1. Mandar Anand Divas (8:45.88 NR and NMR. Old: 8:51.24); 2. Kailashnath (8:53.44); 3. Terismon Thomas (8:58.44) 1500m: 1. Mandar Anand Divasi (16:54.65); 2. Chetan Sharma (Kar 17:19.64); 3. Terismon Thomas (17:22.72).

Backstroke: 50m: 1. V. Arun (TN 28.37 in final and in heats: 28.17 NMR. Old: 28.36); 2. Dipesh Bairagi (RSPB 28:86) and Miraj Ul Rehman (SSCB 28.86); 3. Joshy Joseph (Pol 29.13). 100m: 1. T. K. Senthil Kumar (Ker 1:01.98); 2. Dipesh Bairagi (1:02.21); 3. Joshy Joseph (SSCB 1:04.12). 200m: 1. Akbar Ali Mir (RSPB 2:14.39); 2. N. S. Abhiram (Kar 2:17.10); 3. Santanu Pramanik (SSCB 2:18.11).

Breaststroke: 50m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (Pol 30.43); 2. Gairik Bardhan (Beng 31.11); 3. Puneet Rana (Pnb 31.49). 100m: 1. Deepak Kumar Singh (1:08.80); 2. Gairik Bardhan (1:08.91); 3. Puneet Rana (Pnb 1:09.16). 200m: 1. Gairik Bardhan (2:30.20); 2. P. Aji (SSCB 2:31.71); 3. Anil Khatri (Har 2:37.96).

Butterfly: 50m: 1. K. Rajeev (Ker 26.27 NR and NMR. Old: NR 26.36 and NMR 26.37); 2 Rahul Batra (26.50); 3. R. Anil Kumar (RSPB 26.92). 100m: 1. T. A. Sujith (58.10); 2. Akbar Ali Mir (58.13); 3. Arjun Muralidharan (Pol 59.18). 200m: 1. Akbar Ali Mir (2:08.17 NMR. Old: 2:08.38); 2. Amar Muralidharan (2:09.67); 3. Arjun Muralidharan (2:10.26).

Individual medley: 200m: 1. Akbar Ali Mir (2:12.29. NMR. Old: 2:14.20); 2. Deepak Kumar Singh (2:15.59); 3. Gairik Bardhan (2:18. 31). 400m: 1. S. Srinanand (Kar 4:51.30); 2. Arjun Muralidharan (4:52.00); 3. Nilendu Jena (SSCB 4:56.90).

Relays: 4 x 100m freestyle: 1. Services (3:40.46 NMR. Old: 3:42.55); 2. Railways (3:45.52); 3. Karnataka (3:47.09). 4 x 200m freestyle: 1 Police (8:13.38 NMR. Old 8:15.60); 2. SSCB (8:15.82); 3. RSPB (8:25.35). 4 x 100m medley: 1. Police (4:06.57); 2. Services (4:07.17); 3. Railways (4:11.80).

Women:

Freestyle: 50m: 1. Shikha Tandon (Kar 26.61. NR and NMR. Old NR: 27.04 and NMR: 27.57); 2. Reshma Millet (Kar 28.07); 3. Rishu Mehra (Pol. 28.90). 100m: 1.Shikha Tandon (58.91 NMR. Old: 1:00.45); 2. Reshma Millet (1:00.48); 3. Lisa Mahanata (Pol 1:03.85). 200m freestyle: 1. Nisha Millet (Kar 2:07.92 NMR. Old: 2:08.66); 2. Reshma Millet (2:14.64); 3. Remya (Ker 2:22.55). 400m: 1. Nisha Millet (4:33.55 NMR. Old: 4:38.04); 2. V. Sivaranjani (Kar 4:41.68); 3. Bhawana Sharma (Pol 4:51.43) 800m: 1. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (Kar 9:46.19); 2. Awani Sawant (Pol 10:11.0); 3. Meenakshi Tokas (Del 10:24.61). 1500m: 1. Nisha Millet (18:42.72 NR and NMR. Old: 18:56.42); 2. Awani Sawant (19:09.37); 3. A. Remya (19:47. 83).

Backstroke: 50m: 1. Shikha Tandon (31.44 and in heats 31.32 NR and NMR. Old NR 31.40 and NMR 31.51); 2. Reshma Millet (31.97); 3. Soni Cyriac (Ker 32.09). 100m: 1. Shikha Tandon (1:06.95. NR and NMR. Old: NR: 1:07.82 and NMR: 1:08.06); 2. Nisha Millet (1:07.96); 3. Sumi Cyriac (RSPB 1:10.14). 200m: 1. Nisha Millet (2:29.16); 2. Sumi Cyriac (2:32.48); 3. Soni Cyriac (Ker 2:34.15).

Breaststroke: 50m: 1. D. Mrudula (Kar 37.12); 2. Madhura Patil (Mah 37.26); 3. Bhawana Sharma (Pol 37.72). 100m: 1. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (1:19.93); 2. Bhawana Sharma (Pol 1:20.39); 3. D. Mrudula (Kar 1:21.59). 200m: 1. V. Sivaranjani (Kar 2:49.68 NMR. Old: 2:49.88); 2. Bhawana Sharma (Pol 2:52.67); 3. Archana Bhushan (Kar 2:53.45).

Butterfly: 50m: 1. Richa Misra (Pol: 30.55. NMR. Old: 30.57); 2. Shuba Chittaranjan (Kar 30.67); 3. B. Praveena (Ker 32.73). 100m: 1. Richa Misra (1:04.81 NR and NMR. Old NR:1:05.22 NMR: 1:06.19); 2. V. Sivaranjani (1:06.87); 3. Shubha Chittaranjan (1:08.14). 200m: 1. Richa Misra (2:19.63 NMR. Old: <147,4,0>2:24.24); 2. V. Sivaranjani (2:31.18); 3. Archana Bhushan (2:34.88).

Individual medley: 200m: 1. V. Sivaranjani (2:28.67 NMR. Old: 2:32.03); 2. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (2:32.02); 3. Rishu Mehra (Pol 2:36.11). 400m: 1. Richa Misra (5:08.57 NMR. Old: 5:15.28); 2. Ambica N. S. Iyengar (5:20.79); 3. Bhawana Sharma (5:28.07).

Relays: 4 x 100m freestyle: 1. Karnataka (4:08.91 NMR. Old: 4:09.49); 2. Police (4:22.74); 3. Kerala (4: 28.28). 4 x 200m freestyle: 1. Karnataka (9:01.27 NR and NMR. Old: NR: 9:02.37 and NMR: 9:06.29); 2. Police (9:32.98); 3. Kerala (9:48.06). 4 x 100m medley : 1. Karnataka (4:48.51); 2. Police (4:56.04); 3. Kerala (4:58.19).

Team championships: Men: Police (135 pts) . Runner-up: Services (131 pts). Women: Karnataka (217). Runner-up: Police (117). Overall champion: Karnataka (287). Runner-up: Police (252). Best swimmer: Men: Akbar Ali Mir (RSPB). Women: Shikha Tandon (Karnataka).

Diving: Men:

High board: 1. Sachin Tripathi (Rly 438.95); 2. Bhausaheb Dighe (Rly 391.50); 3. Basudeb Giri (Beng 385.30). Three metre spring board: 1. Harish Analdas (RSPB 443.80); 2. Sandeep Misra (RSPB 443.60); 3. Yogesh H. Watve (SSCB 426.0). One metre spring board: 1. G. B. Sharath (Kar 265.05); 2. Sandeep Misra (249.0); 3. Yogesh H. Watve (SSCB 246.75).

Women:

High board: 1.Mamoni Mondal (Rly 337.30); 2. Suparna Paul (Rly 326.15); 3. Sandana Adhikari (Pol 302.30). Three metre spring board: 1. Tanya Ganguly (RSPB 359.75 NMR. Old: 354.95); 2. Mamoni Mondal (346.50); 3. Vidita R. Powle (Mah 311. 50). One metre spring board: 1. Mamoni Mondal (180.55); 2. Taniya Ganguly (168.55); 3. Ashwini Mohite (Kar 165.10).

Men's team championship: Railways Sports Promotion Board (31 points). Women: RSPB (36). Overall champion: RSPB.

Waterpolo:

Men's final: Services 8 (Sreekumar 3, Bijendra Rai 2, S. Samanta, K. Anilkumar and Martin Joseph) beat Railways 6 (Robin Boldey 2, Sandip Dutta 2, Debasish Prasad and Dibyendu Das).

Semi-finals: Railways bt Bengal 8-5; Services bt Police 13-9

Women's final: Kerala 5 (Biji Verghese 2, B. Praveena , T. K. Prajitha and A. S. Liji) beat Police 4 (Purnima Pai 3, Smita Gawhane).

Semi-finals: Kerala bt Bengal 5-3; Police bt Maharashtra 6-4.