Nothing much to shout about

For the present, gymnastics provides a blurry scene. It is not only hazy at the horizon; even a look near gives an obscure picture.

KIRTI PATIL

TWO girls, about six-years-old, impatiently waited to carry the trays for the medal presentation ritual. The ceremony was still a few moments away, but they were restless. Almost like a ritual, one of them would pull out a pocket mirror, look at her face and then smear her lips with yet another coat of lip-paint. All this wasn't keeping them busy though. The floor area was all clear, medal winners were being gathered and the chief guest was yet to arrive. To top it all, the international standard synthetic floor was an exciting invitation.

Tumpa Debnath, who won the womern's individual all-around championship -- Pic. SANDEEP SAXENA-

So the trays were put down and the two girls started executing somersaults on the floor. To a curious eye, mainly in terms of body-balance and appeal, theirs was a much better presentation than those who had won the medals. Remember, these girls were dressed up top to bottom, in a frilly frock, stockings and thick woollens on the top to beat the December cold. A talk with the girls brought out the story behind their piece of gymnastics.

Picked up to carry the trays at the 44th National gymnastics championship, these girls were the sub-junior gymnasts waiting for their day under the sun. But when they attain the right age, will there be enough inspiration and zest to carry on in the same way?

Come to think of it, there would have been many more boys and girls with such talent and inclination. Still, India lags behind the gymnastics world by may be 20 or more years. Even in the countries that are hotbed for gymnastics, a gymnast works towards just one — the Olympics. After that, the gymnast's career, as a player, is almost over.

But, what we have in here totally defies the logic of sport. We have had gymnasts who remain National champions for years together. There are several who keep appearing for the country after every four years, in the Commonwealth Games, the Asian championship and the World championship — because in these meets one doesn't need to qualify to participate. Olympics are different games altogether.

No wonder then that the sport, which lies in Category `C' in the Government's priority list, has provided almost no moments to cheer. Sorry, we are not counting the medals won at the invitational and the regional championships.

Hardly has there been any change from what it was a year ago and now. So does it justify columns of reportage year after year? Maybe time will answer a few of these doubts.

For the present, gymnastics provides a blurry scene. It is not only hazy at the horizon; even a look near gives an obscure picture. The new-look governing body proposes to make `quantum' changes in the way the sport was being handled so far. The first change it has proposed was that coach and doctor would get the priority ticket to travel with the team, ahead of the manager.

"This is an individual game. Unless the gymnast has the personal coach to depend on, he or she cannot perform" says the General Secretary of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI), Kan Singh Rathore.

What a revelation! But at least something has turned for the better. It's a pity that in these past so many years none gave a thought to such detail.

Then there is a major issue of qualified and unbiased judges. In India, qualified judges would be handful. And, whether they are neutral is a very subjective question.

At the National championship held at the Shivalik Public School in Mohali, many such issues seemed even more evident. In the e-age, gymnastics still depends on the rudimentary methods of calculations. Nothing wrong with that but then, why should the spectators, watch the sport if they cannot make out who won.

"It will be very difficult and costly to computerise the scoring system," says Rathore.

This is one way to turn away the fans. Yes, there was one announcer who gave out everything, from the line-up of gymnasts whose turn was next, directions to the judges and organisers, and the results. Then the administrators of these sports complain about cricket getting more money and attention.

As regards the artistic championship, in the men, Uttar Pradesh retained its hold, but Services and Railways showed that they would catch up soon. Though Vikas Pandey won the individual all-around title, stress in the wrist forced him on the back-foot in the apparatus event. His team-mate Mayank Srivastava was the benefactor as he won two of the six apparatus'.

On the women's side, Tumpa Debnath was ahead of the rest, but her nervy attitude cost Railways the team championship. Rupali Haldar emerged as the promising gymnast as she led Bengal to the team title.

The results Men:

Individual all-around championship (read as total, floor, pommel, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar): 1. Vikas Pandey (UP) 53.20 (9.05, 9.20, 8.80, 8.75, 9.00, 8.40); 2. Mayank Srivastava (UP) 52.05 (8.70, 8.90, 8.10, 9.40, 8.80, 8.15); 3. B.N. Shiva Kumar (AP) 50.50 (8.45, 8.60, 8.25, 8.60, 8.40, 8.20)

Artistic apparatus championship:

Floor: 1. Abhinav Dixit (UP), 9.075, 2. Pandey 8.700, 3. Kapil (UP) and Y. Ibomecha Singh (Chd) 8.650.

Pommel horse: 1. Srivastava 8.575, 2. Pandey and Shiva Kumar 8.475. Roman rings: 1. Gaurav Sharma (Pun) 9.375, 2. Lalit Kumar (Pun) 9.200, 3. Sarfaraz Ahmed and Parimal Mullick (Raj) 8.875.

Vault: 1. Srivastava 9.000, 2. Bahadur 8.362, 3. Bera 8.312. Parallel bars: 1. Raja Ray (Ser) 8.900, 2. Mohit Yadav (UP) 8.875, 3. Krishnan 8.725. Horizontal bar: 1. M. Shinoj (Ser) 8.975, 2. Bahadur 8.375, 3. Kapil 8.175.

Team championship: 1. Uttar Pradesh 254.45, 2. Services 245.30, 3. Railways 244.60.

Women:

Individual all-around championship (read as total, vault, uneven bars, beam, floor): 1. Tumpa Debnath (Rly) 31.80 (8.60, 7.15, 8.25, 7.80); 2. Rupali Haldar (Ben) 31.70 (8.55, 7.40, 7.80, 7.95); 3. Sundari Mondal (Rly) 31.30 (7.95, 7.40, 8.00, 7.95).

Artistic apparatus championship:

Uneven bars: 1. Tumpa 8.075, 2. Sundari 7.775, 3. Rupali 7.675. Vault: 1. Sundari 8.237, 2. Tumpa 8.187, 3. Rupali 8.000. Beam: 1. Rohika 8.175, 2. Rupali 7.875, 3. Monika (AP) 7.675. Floor: 1. Tumpa 8.125, 2. Sundari 7.975, 3. Sarfoora (AP) 7.925.

Team championship: 1. Bengal 148.60, 2. Railways 148.40, 3. Punjab 145.50.

Rhythmic:

Women (individual all-around championship): 1. Rajani Sharma (Pun) 45.200, 2. Amrita Hazari (Del) 44.650, 3. Harleen (J&K) 44.350.

Apparatus championship:

Rope: 1. Harleen 15.85, 2. Rajani 15.40, 3. Sonal 14.35. Hoop: 1. Renu (Pun) 14.50, 2. Pallavi (Mah) 14.10, 3. Amrita Hazari 13.65.

Ball: 1. Dimple 14.85, 2. Mala (Chd) 13.40, 3. Amrita Hazari 13.00. Ribbon: 1. Dimple 15.80, 2. Rajani 15.25, 3. Mala 13.75.