No challenge to India's supremacy

KIRTI PATIL

The Indian men and women, who made a clean sweep of the gold medals at stake.-SANDEEP SAXENA

INDIA utilised the South Asian judo championships to test its second string judokas. And, despite keeping away its top players, India still emerged the best in the sub-continent, taking all the gold medals that were on offer.

Asian junior champion Archana (48 kg) and Commonwealth bronze medallist Bhupinder Singh (66 kg) rang the bells for the future with dominant performances. The other Indians were not far behind, winning the honours after some tough contests in the men's section.

In the women's section, there was hardly any challenge to the Indian supremacy with Nepal and Sri Lanka winning three silver medals each. In the six-nation tourney, only four countries fielded their women judokas, but things seemed to be looking up. Pakistan announced its plan to have women judokas in the next championship.

Besides holding its sway in the region, the Judo Federation of India (JFI) won some brownie points. New Delhi made a bid for the 2006 Asian junior championship and the President of the Judo Union of Asia (JUA), Yoshinori Takeuchi, who oversaw the championship in Indore, had reasons to accept India's capability in hosting bigger meets.

"India is a dominant power in the region and by having Asian junior championship in New Delhi, judo will get a good boost in the zone,'' Takeuchi said.

Mandeep Singh exults after winning the 90 kg category.-

"India has played an important role in the development of judo in the region. This championship was in abeyance for about a decade and the efforts of JFI has helped revive the meet,'' he said.

India's total dominance was bad news for judo a decade ago as the sport was shut out of the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games. Ten years down the line, the scenario hasn't changed much, but the sport has surely become more competitive. The entry of Afghanistan was a big excitement for the South Asian judo fraternity. The war-ravaged country made its presence felt, after having faced sporting isolation for decades, winning two bronze medals.

Though it was difficult for other countries to beat India, the championship was an attempt to provide platform for the judokas of the region to prepare for tougher competitions such as Asian championship.

On the mat, Bhupinder showed why he has beep tipped as the best talent to come up in the recent past. Besides winning bronze medal in the 2004 Commonwealth championship in Waitakere City, New Zealand, he had secured fifth ranking in the Asian junior championship in Doha.

In Indore, Bhupinder won all his five league bouts in the championship. But for Sri Lankan Susanta Attanayake stretching him to full five minutes, Bhupinder subdued his opponents in no time. His 15-second demolition of Pakistan's Muhammad Zeeshan through ippon was impressive.

Archana led the Indian women's team, which also had seasoned Brojeshori Devi competing. Archana, who won the lone gold for India in the Doha Asian juniors last year, won all the three league bouts with powerful show. Archana's best was a 57-second ippon against Mina Akter of Bangladesh.

``On the performance front, India has shown gradual improvement, but it lacks the punch. We can make some impact at the Asian level but players are not ready to get pushed to the limit,'' says the former champion Cawas Billimoria, who is now the Technical Director of the South Asian Judo Federation.

``The worrying factor is that most of the good players adjust among each other and stay in different weights and avoid tough competition,'' said Billimoria. Brojeshori fits in this case perfectly. The Olympian who won two bouts in Sydney Games, moved to upper weight class when Commonwealth gold medallist, Anita Chanu, emerged the best in 52 kg category.

``Already we have minimum of competitions and with players adjusting weights to avoid losing, how are we going to produce champions,'' queers Billimoria.

The results Men:

56 kg: 1. Vikas Saini (Ind) 3-0 (6pts), 2. Sharif Masih (Pak) 2-1 (4), 3. Ramesh Dangol (Nep) 1-2 (2). 60 kg: 1. Parvinder Singh (Ind) 4-0 (8 pts), 2. Saman Kumara (Sri) 3-1 (6), 3. Shree Milon Mazumdar (Ban) 2-2 (4). 66 kg: 1. Bhupinder Singh (Ind) 5-0 (10 pts), 2. Mohammad Zeeshan (Pak) 3-2 (6), 3. Farhad Hajrathi (Afg) 3-2 (6).

73 kg: 1. Ram Ashrey Yadav (Ind) 5-0 (10 pts), 2. Karamat Butt (Pak) 4-1 (8), 3. Said Hussain Hussaini (Afg) 3-2 (6). 81 kg: 1. Sahil Pathania (Ind) 4-0 (8 pts), 2. Amjad Ali (Pak) 3-1 (6), 3. Prabin Kaji Shreshtha (Nep) 1-3 (2). 90 kg: 1. Mandeep Singh (Ind) 3-0 (6 pts), 2. Muzaffar Iqbal (Pak) 2-1 (4), 3. Gayan Seneviratne (Sri) 1-2 (2). Open: 1. Samunder Tokas (Ind) 3-0 (6 pts), 2. Zahid Pervaiz (Pak) 2-1 (4), 3. Ranil Seneviratne (Sri) 1-2 (2).

Women:

44 kg: 1. Kh. Thombi Devi (Ind) 2-0 (4 pts), 2. Chamila Winjeratne (Sri) 1-1 (2), 3. Lila Adhikari (Nep) 0-2 (0). 48 kg: 1. Archana (Ind) 3-0 (6 pts), 2. Radhika Rai (Nep) 2-1 (4), 3. Niluka Idamawathjha (Sri) 1-2 (2). 52 kg: 1. N. Gomti Chanu (Ind) 3-0 (6 pts), 2. Ranju Rai (Nep) 2-1 (4), 3. Harshani Herath (Sri) 1-2 (2).

57 kg: 1. L. Brojeshori Devi (Ind) 3-0 (6 pts), 2. Deepu Thapa (Nep) 2-1 (4), 3. Narun Nahar (Ban) 1-2 (2). 63 kg: 1. Y. Landhoni Devi (Ind) 2-0 (4 pts), 2. Chandimali Gunasekera (Sri) 1-1 (2), 3. Kalpana Akter (Ban) 0-2 (0). 70 kg: 1. Sangeeta Sharma (Ind) 2-0 (4 pts), 2. Puspa Momtaj (Ban) 1-1 (2), Lakmini Weerasinghe (Sri) 0-2 (0). Open: 1. Jina Devi (Ind) 2-0 (4 pts), 2. Chandimali Gunasekera (Sri) 1-1 (2), 3. Puspa Momtaj (Ban) 0-2 (0).