NEELAM SINGH opens season with best effort

NEELAM JASWANT SINGH still has the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl making her bow at the National level. At 34, she in fact is a veteran. Yet, she approaches every competition as though she still has to prove herself at the national level.

K. P. MOHAN

NEELAM JASWANT SINGH still has the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl making her bow at the National level. At 34, she in fact is a veteran. Yet, she approaches every competition as though she still has to prove herself at the national level.

Neelam Jaswant Singh winning the women's discus gold.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

The Hoshiarpur woman kick-started her 2005 season in effortless style as she nailed the discus gold in the inaugural National throws and pole vault meet in New Delhi. Down to 80kg from a 2004 high of 90kg, Neelam feels that she could still do with another loss of 5kg or so in her bodyweight.

"Last year proved a disappointment. I struggled with injuries; I was not able to run and my fitness levels came down. I had hopes for the Olympics, at least for a personal best and a slot in the final. That didn't happen," said Neelam as she finished her first competition of the season with a best of 58.12m.

"Considering that this is only the first meet of the season, I am satisfied," said Neelam. She couldn't have complained after a good series in which she had three other throws over 57 metres. Harwant Kaur and Krishna Poonia who took the silver and bronze respectively could not cross 57 metres.

There was disappointment in Seema Antil finishing fourth and last with a throw of 53.71m. Seema attributed her failure to her lack of preparation following illness. Yet, for someone who had crossed 64 metres twice last season, even a `low' should have been close to 58 metres or thereabouts.

Gajanan Updhyay, winner of the men's pole vault event.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Jagdish Bishnoi and Ranvijay Singh were the other two, apart from Neelam, who made an impression in the senior ranks. Bishnoi had a throw of 75.22m to win the javelin gold while Ranvijay putted the shot to 19.89m to wrest the gold from a field that included veteran Shakti Singh. Touching 75-plus so early in the season should boost Bishnoi's morale after the disappointment of missing the Olympics qualification. Yet, he has to come out of the 75-76m rut if he has to be reckoned as a contender even at the Asian level. There were four Asians above 80 metres last season.

Shakti, like Neelam, has shed a lot of weight this season. And he looks keen to prove himself all over again. He finished third behind Kulwinder Singh Mann, with a putt of 18.58 metres.

Ranvijay's 19.89, his second best after that phenomenal 20.26m at Chennai last year, has projected him as the man to watch this season, though his jump from a best of 18.44 to that 20-metre-plus mark last year was rather unconvincing for one so young. The 21-year-old Uttar Pradesh lad will have to perform consistently at the highest level if he is to bracketed as world-class, no matter that he is only the third Indian, after Shakti and Bahadur, in the 20-metre club. His two other valid throws in this meet were 18.18 and 18.88.

Jagdish Bishnoi with a throw of 75.22m took the honours in men's javelin.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

That men's shot put will continue to be in focus, in India's long-term medal calculations, is very evident now. Two of the youngsters, Saurabh Vij (18.79m, under-20) and Kulwinder Singh (18.38m) showed that the second rung is ready and keen to get into the senior bracket. Kulwinder's was National record in the under-18 section.

There was another record in the boys under-16 section, with Sandeep of Haryana setting a javelin mark of 62.25 metres, a fantastic improvement of nearly six metres over his own national record.

Ranvijay Singh dominated the shot put field which included some veterans.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Kerala caused a stir by clinching seven medals in the throws. For a State known for its sprinters and jumpers, this should be considered a breakthrough, though the standards achieved were nothing to shout about.

For a first-time effort, this meet, sponsored by the Salwan Public School and ATE, the athletics equipment manufacturing company, was a success in that it took the action away from traditional venues and still managed to put up a fine show.

From the safety aspect, the Salwan school ground looked a little cramped for comfort, especially when hammer and javelin were on, but nothing untoward happened. Though there were more than 300 entries, in all age groups put together, there was disappointment that many of the events attracted only three or four entries.

Maybe the units need some more prompting to send in entries more enthusiastically. The federation is planning to make it an international affair from next year.

THE RESULTS

Pole vault: Men: 1. Gajanan Updhyay (UP) 4.70m, 2. V. V. Geesh Kumar (Ker) 4.70, 3. Praveen Kumar (Har) 4.40. Women: 1. Chetan Solanki (UP) 3.50m, 2. V. S. Surekha (TN) 3.50, 3. Gitanjali Bora (Assam) 3.15.

Shot put: Boys (under-16): 1. Sanjeev Rathi (Del) 15.02m, 2. Gurjeet Singh (Pun) 13.59, 3. M. Ganesh Babu (AP) 13.49. Boys (under-18): 1. Kulwinder Singh (Del) 18.38m (NR, previous 18.04), 2. Atinder Singh (Pun) 17.70, 3. Navin Sahipal (Har) 17.00.

Junior men (under-20): 1. Saurabh Vij (Del) 18.79m, 2. Pushpender Yadav (Del) 18.41, 3. Sunil Mishra (UP) 16.83. Men: 1. Ranvijay Singh (UP) 19.89m, 2. Kuldeep Mann (Del) 18.65, 3. Shakti Singh (Har) 18.58. Girls (under-16): 1. Rinku Rani (Har) 10.76m, 2. Ankita Jhulka (Del) 10.43, 3. Sarnya J. (Ker) 9.53. Girls (under-18): 1. Patwant Kaur (Pun) 12.15m, 2. Stefi Cardozo (Goa) 11.55, 3. Priyanka Bhanot (Del) 11.21. Junior women (under-20): 1. Priya A. K. (Ker) 10.86m, 2. Shivangini (AP) 10.82, 3. Mukesh Beniwal (Del) 10.41.Women: 1. Saroj Sihag (Har) 12.82m, 2. Soumya Joseph (Ker) 11.25, 3. Rajshree R. L. (Ker) 11.23.

Discus: Boys (under-16): 1. Ashish Mathur (Del) 40.02m, 2. Sushant Dutta (Del) 39.04, 3. Bhalinder Singh (Har) 37.54. Boys (under-18): 1. Dinesh Chander (Har) 52.99m, 2. Pradeep Kumar (Har) 51.96, 3. Kulwinder (Del) 50.52. Junior men (under-20): 1. Harpreet Singh (Del) 53.79m, 2. Puneet Vij (Del) 49.41, 3. Simranjit Singh (Pun) 48.77.

Men: 1. Simranjit Singh (Pun) 51.86m, 2. Sukhbir Singh (Pun) 51.18, 3. Jagjit Singh (Uttaranchal) 49.21. Girls (under-16): 1. Ankita Jhulka (Del) 37.73m, 2. Rinku Rani (Har) 36.08, 3. Ritu Jangra (Har) 32.33. Girls (under-18): 1. Priyanka Bhanot (Del) 39.45m, 2. Babli Singh (Har) 39.35, 3. Anita Bsarkatti (Goa) 28.00. Junior women (under-20): 1. Bhavna Gaur (MP) 34.89, 2. Mukesh Beniwal (Del) 32.78, 3. Rita (Assam) 27.76.

Women: 1. Neelam J. Singh (Pun) 58.12m, 2. Harwant Kaur (Pun) 56.50, 3. Krishna Punia (Har) 55.92.

Hammer: Boys (under-16): 1. Azaz Ahmad (UP) 54.59m, 2. Chandroday (UP) 53.72, 3. M. Alam (UP) 52.92. Boys (under-18): 1. Anil Kumar (CRPF) 59.73m, 2. Varinder Singh (Pun) 59.10, 3. Diwakar Singh (UP) 59.07. Junior men (under-20): 1. Shahnawaz Khan (UP) 57.83m, 2. Pushpinder Singh (Pun) 57.72, 3. Montoo Alawat (UP) 55.12. Men: 1. Kulwinder Singh (Pun) 66.03, 2. Harpal Singh (Pun) 63.88, 3. Madhu Kumar (Har) 61.08. Girls (under-18): 1. Shilpa Chauhan (UP) 44.89, 2. Swati Singh (UP) 37.31, 3. Davinder Kaur (Pun) 36.98. Junior women (under-20): 1. Sukanya (UP) 43.49m, 2. Harinder Kaur (Pun) 41.85, 3. Anita Patel (UP) 37.26. Women: 1. Ritu Rani (Del) 58.77m, 2. Rajwinder Kaur (Pun) 53.42, 3. Ushma Singh (Del) 53.01

Javelin: Boys (under-16): 1. Sandeep (Har) 62.25 (NR, previous 56.40), 2. Vijilesh Singh (UP) 50.17, 3. Ashish Kumar (Del) 42.85. Boys (under-18): 1. Vikas Rana (Uttaranchal) 64.38m, 2. Rajinder Singh (Har) 61.94, 3. Mani Singh (MP) 60.52. Junior men (under-20): 1. Arun Patel (UP) 63.26m, 2. Sandeep Yadav (Del) 61.90, 3. H. Singh (CRPF) 59.44. Men: 1. Jagdish Bishnoi (Pun) 75.22m, 2. Sunil Goswami (Del) 74.10, 3. Gurkirat Singh (Pun) 73.71. Girls (under-16): 1. Janaki (Chhattisgarh) 32.48m, 2. Anju (Har) 29.46, 3.Gurhar Simran (Har) 27.10. Girls (under-18): 1. Patwant Kaur (Pun) 36.98m, 2. Neelam Sangwan (Har) 33.20, 3. Sandeep Singh (Har) 27.14. Junior women (under-20): 1. Sini K. (Ker) 36.54m, 2. Anita Patel (UP) 35.62, 3. Bincy Devasia (Ker) 33.93. Women: 1. Suman Devi (UP) 47.36, 2. Vaihda Khan (CRPF) 35.35, 3. Manju Paulose (Ker) 34.76.