Mediocrity rules

Gayathri… best individual performance in the meet.-K. MURALI KUMAR

The reasons for the sub-par performances were varied. While some athletes opted to take a break after taking part in major international meets, others were busy in different coaching camps abroad. Many of those who participated complained of the hot and humid weather during the meet.

Contrary to expectations that the athletes who made their mark in the Asian Youth Games and the IAAF World youth meet would dish out some eye-catching performances, the ninth National Federation Cup junior athletics championships in Lucknow turned out to be just another mediocre event on the Athletics Federation of India (AFI)’s annual calendar.

The reasons for the sub-par performances were varied. While some athletes opted to take a break after taking part in major international meets, others were busy in different coaching camps abroad. Many of those who participated complained of the hot and humid weather that prevailed in Lucknow during the meet.

Still, the meet witnessed the setting up of four meet records and a National record. Seema Jakhar broke the eight-year-old women’s hammer throw National record while C. Nikhil Chittarasu (men’s high jump), L. Suriya (women’s 5000m), P. Kesavaramani (men’s 110m hurdles), G. Gayathri (women’s triple jump) set new meet marks.

Of the notable individual performances, Gayathri’s was the best. After grabbing the gold medal in the 100m hurdles, the Tamil Nadu girl leapt to a meet record in triple jump and played a crucial role in her state’s narrow win over Kerala in the 4x100m relay.

Last year in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, Gayathri had claimed silver medals in triple jump and 100m hurdles and was part of India’s gold winning 4x100m relay team.

However, Gayathri, with a personal best of 13.10m in triple jump, was not happy that she missed the National mark of 13.11m set by Mayookha Johny. In men’s hammer throw, Uttar Pradesh failed to make a clean sweep because of the absence of its ace thrower Chandrodaya Narayan Singh, the silver medallist in the Pune Games. He was in Jakarta attending a coaching camp and could not reach for the meet on time.

Much was expected of javelin thrower Rohit Kumar of the host team. But the Asian Youth Games gold winner had to settle for the silver, hampered as he was by a muscle pull in his right hand.

Another gold medallist in the Asian Youth Games, discus thrower Arjun from Delhi was way below his best. However, he managed to beat his closest rival only on the last attempt to win the top honour.

“I did not practise after returning from the Asian Youth Games, so there was some rust. Besides, the track here is quite slow while I am used to practising on fast tracks,” Arjun said.

The AFI observer for the meet, J. S. Saini, was not very impressed with the performances. However, he said the championships would be one of those meets from which talent would be spotted and trained for next year’s World junior athletics championships.

“There is enough time left for the World Championships. We will have the inter-zonal and other meets from where we will select probables who will finally be put into a camp. This process will continue,” Saini said.

Overall, Haryana took advantage of the absence of some of the top Kerala athletes, busy in overseas camps, and emerged as the top side of the championships with eight gold, 10 silver and five bronze medals. Tamil Nadu was second with seven gold, two silver and seven bronze medals. Kerala was third with five gold, six silver and nine bronze.

Surprisingly, Punjab, once considered the powerhouse of athletics, finished at the bottom of the medals tally by managing just one bronze.

* * * Madurai to the fore

Victorious Madurai team with the trophy.-

It is a paradox of sorts that Tamil Nadu, despite its long history and tradition in hockey, has very few tournaments for women. Perhaps the current generation may not be aware that Madras, along with Mysore, figured prominently in the National Championships for years. The slump came somewhere in the latter half of the 1960s.

Against this background the endeavour of the Winning XI Women’s Hockey Club and the moving force behind it, J. Mothi Singh, in conducting the annual state-level competition for over 15 years must be commended. It’s a creditable record indeed.

Started in 1980 with seven teams in the fray, the 2009 edition of the tournament, which concluded in Chennai recently, had 20 teams — three more than last year — from across the state vying for the trophy. That 11 of them were outstation units underscores the popularity of the tournament which, over the years, came to be associated with memories of hockey officials like D. S. Rajamanickam, Firoze Ali Sheroff and Dhanraj.

In a thrilling final that was resolved in the last five minutes, Madurai defeated Punitha Arokiya Club, Keeranur, 2-1 to retain the trophy. Madurai trailed 0-1 at half-time, following a goal by Vidya in the fourth minute. However, led admirably by striker Pavithra, Madurai regained its rhythm and staged a splendid fightback. Pavithra was declared the Player of the Final and received the special prize donated by former goalkeeper of Southern Railway, Thomas Choke, in memory of Jimmy Carr who died a few weeks ago.

That not one local team figured in the semifinals should pose some concern to the city’s hockey administrators. On the contrary, the girls from the districts stole the show and Pavithra was one example. Teams from Thiruvallur, Mayiladuthurai and Keeranur displayed a lot of verve and enthusiasm.

Like last year, S. R. Bhasgeran, HWHC’s patron, sponsored the prize money (Rs.70,000) of the tournament and special prizes. The winner picked up Rs. 40,000, with the second- and third-placed teams getting Rs. 20,000 and 10,000 respectively.

Amaresh Pujari, IGP, Police Training, and Dr. Elizabeth Varghese, Chancellor, Hindustan University, gave away the prizes in the presence of Walter I. Dawaram, President, Tamil Nadu Athletics Association.

* * * Honour for TNSA

There are very few clubs in India that have more than 100 boats of different categories such as the optimist, IODA hull, laser, full rig and radial rig. And fewer still are institutions that train its sailors 52 days a year. The Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) is indeed making rapid progress.

Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Chief of Naval Staff, didn't waste much time in mentioning the reason for his visit to Chennai. "Good results by the TNSA sailors made me come here," said Mehta on his first visit to a private club in Tamil Nadu. At a small function at the Port Trust Centenary Auditorium in Chennai, the Chief of Naval Staff officially inducted eight 29er class and 50 optimist class boats which the TNSA had bought from Australia.

According to Ashok Thakkar, Commodore TNSA, the 29er class is for those who have graduated from the optimist class. "The popularity of 29er class is increasing," he said.

Ashok was all praise for Munna Jamal, chief coach of the TNSA. Many of the youngsters he trained have gone on to win titles in National events.

The Chief of Naval Staff floored everyone with his wit. When Shanta Ravikumar, media co-ordinator, introduced Mehta to the audience citing his achievements - "PVSM AVSM ADC" - he interrupted, "I am also the president of the Yachting Association of India." This had the audience roaring in laughter.

Mehta hoped that a lot of youngsters would enter the 29er class in the future. He called upon those involved in sailing "to support the cause of promoting the sport."

BY Y.B. SARANGI, S. THYAGARAJAN & K. KEERTHIVASAN