Not much of a show


V. S. Surekha of Railways, whowon the women's pole vault,produced the only Nationalrecord in the meet.-RAJEEV BHATT

THE Indian athletics season began rather sedately with the first National circuit meet in New Delhi producing nothing much bar a couple of good performances by the pole-vaulters.

There is a perceptible dip in standards overall, compared to the Olympic year when everyone seemed to be keen to gain this norm or that in order to make it to Athens. Though this time around there is the incentive of going for the Helsinki World championships, the athletes look to be in no great mood or form.

Maybe these are early days yet in a season that also has the Asian athletics championships in September. But the lack of top-class performances to at least match the previous year's feats should be viewed with concern.

Is it because the full compliment of foreign coaches and experts has not arrived? The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) thinks so. For, it believes that continuity in training is a key factor. The gap between the end-season and re-appointment of foreign coaches becomes too long most of the time, the federation feels. Some of the athletes have also complained about the absence of foreign coaches to look after them early in the season.

Poonam Tomar (second from right) winning the women's 100m from Deepti Jose (235), Kavita Pandya and K. M.Greeshamma.-RAJEEV BHATT

According to AFI's assessment, India did reasonably well at the Athens Olympics. It could have been better of course, the federation admits. This year should have been one of consolidation then. There is no indication of it from the first circuit meet. Maybe things will take a turn for the better in the next few months.

The pole-vaulters, especially men, have been a neglected bunch in recent years. Of course there is a regular quota of national records by the women year after year. But the men have hardly hit the headlines. Gajanan Kumar Updhyay should have gained more attention than he did in Delhi when he cleared 5.00 metres. In 15 years, this was the first time that someone had gone that high. The last man was M. A. Eldo and before him, the National record holder, Vijay Pal Singh.

Upadhyay has improved from his last year's 4.80 to be in the exclusive five-metre club. Looking at world standards, quite often close to 6.00 metres these days, though not over it too frequently as used to be the case when Sergey Bubka was vaulting, you might wonder what the great fuss is about someone clearing 5.00m. But that is where India stands.

That is more or less the same case with women's pole-vaulting, too, though in V. S. Surekha's case, a steady climb over the last two seasons, has helped her focus on a berth in the Indian team for the Asian championships this year.

Benedict Starli, with an effort of 2.10m, claimed the gold in men's high jump.-RAJEEV BHATT

Surekha and Chetna Solanki went past the previous National record (3.55m) by crossing 3.60m and then Surekha scaled 3.70m. The 21-year-old Southern Railway employee tried 3.80m, but failed.

Surekha cannot hope to reach the World championship-qualifying standard of 4.30m this year, but she can hope to make it to Korea for the Asians in case she goes past the 3.80-metre mark. Under coach P. C. Tyagi, she and Chetna have taken big strides this season.

The rest of the Delhi meet slipped into a familiar pattern. Javelin thrower Jagdish Bishnoi had another 75-metre-plus effort, just as he had done in the Salwan meet a week earlier, but the male shot putters and the women discus throwers fell far below their standards.

Shot putter Ranvijay Singh, who topped the Salwan meet with 19.89m, could do no better than 18.85, winning the gold by a centimetre from Kuldeep Singh Mann, with veteran Shakti Singh taking the bronze with 18.32.

Jagdish Bishnoi brightened the men's section with another 75m pluseffort in javelin.-RAJEEV BHATT

Neelam J. Singh was down to 57.36 in women's discus, while the fast-improving Krishna Poonia edged National record holder Seema Antil for the silver. Seema's continuing slump from a high of 64-plus last season should pose a question mark about her fitness following a recent illness.

Sathi Geetha upstaged two of her better-rated rivals, Manjeet Kaur and Chitra K. Soman to claim the women's 400 metres gold in 52.36. Chitra had the silver while Manjeet's bronze came in 54.03s. She holds the national record at 51.05s.

Two of the dope-tainted athletes from the Hyderabad National Games were back. Jagdish Basak clocked a personal best 10.48m to beat National champion Piyush Kumar in a photo-finish, while Kavita Pandya claimed the third spot behind Poonam Tomar and newcomer Deepti Jose in the women's 200m. Incidentally, Poonam clocked a personal best 11.55s.

The results

Men: 100m: 1. Jagdish Basak (BSF) 10.48, 2. Piyush Kumar (Railways) 10.48, 3. H. Jayachandran (LIC) 10.52; 400m: 1. Sarish Paul (Services) 47.31, 2. Satbir Singh (Services) 47.32, 3. Bhupinder Singh (ONGC) 47.72; 110m hurdles: 1. Krishna Mohan (Services) 14.49, 2. Gurpreet Singh (Punjab Police) 14.89, 3. Ram Niwas (Railways) 15.45; 400m hurdles: 1. P. Shankar (ONGC) 51.46, 2. Joseph Abraham (CRPF) 51.56, 3. Kuldev Singh (Punjab Police) 52.11; High jump: 1. Benedict Starli (Railways) 2.10, 2. Anil Kumar Chahal (Railways) 2.05, 3. Rajesh Kaliraman (Haryana) 2.05; Pole vault: 1. Gajanan Updhyay (Railways) 5.00, 2. V. V. Geesh Kumar (Ker) 4.85, 3. Jitender Kumar (UP) 4.80; Triple jump: 1. Bhupinder Singh (Punjab Police) 15.74, 2. M. Renjith (Railways) 15.70, 3. Amarjeet Singh (Railways) 15.61; Shot put: 1. Ranvijay Singh (UP) 18.85, 2. Kuldeep Mann (CISF) 18.84, 3. Shakti Singh (Railways) 18.32.

Discus: 1. Amritpal Singh (Punjab) 51.79m, 2. Sukhbir Singh (Punjab Police) 51.06, 3. Simranjit Singh (Punjab) 50.69; Hammer: 1. Kulwinder Singh (Punjab Police) 64.24, 2. Pargat Singh (Railways) 60.83, 3. Harpal Singh (Punjab Police) 59.04; Javelin: 1. Jagdish Bishnoi (Punjab Police) 75.73m, 2. Sunil Goswami (Delhi) 74.66, 3. Om Narayan (Railways) 74.35.

Women: 100m: 1. Poonam Tomar (Railways) 11.55, 2. Deepti Jose (Railways) 11.89, 3. Kavita Pandya (Railways) 11.98; 400m: 1. S. Geetha (Railways) 52.36, 2. Chitra Soman (Jharkhand) 52.48, 3. Manjeet Kaur (Punjab Police) 54.03; 100m hurdles: 1. Anuradha Biswal (Orissa) 14.50s, 2. Manju Paulose (Railways) 15.18, 3. Amita Sethi (BSNL) 15.26; Pole vault: 1. V. S. Surekha (Railways) 3.70m (National record, previous 3.55m), 2. Chetna Solanki (UP) 3.60, 3. Geetanjali Vora (Assam) 3.40.Discus: 1. Neelam J. Singh (Railways) 57.36, 2. Krishna Poonia (Railways) 55.37, 3. Seema Antil (Haryana) 53.87; Hammer: 1. Ritu Rani (Delhi) 55.50, 2. Rajwinder Kaur (Punjab) 54.00, 3. Ushma Singh (Delhi) 52.03.