Overall, not a great show

K. P. MOHAN

THE 42nd Open National athletics championships were expected to provide the final thrust to the Asian Games probables apart from setting the stage up for a few hopefuls to make the qualification grade for the Busan Games.

Karamjeet Kaur added a phenomenal 20 centimetres to her own National record in the pole vault event. The Punjab girl cleared 3.45m.-RAJEEV BHATT

Only one additional athlete, hammer thrower Pramod Kumar Tiwari, achieved the norm, while another, javelin thrower Harminder Singh came close to it. Both were eventually named in the Asiad team. So, too, a few others who had failed to make it.

Two National records were set and two equalled. At least one of them, the 6.74m by Anju George in women's long jump, provided a fresh ray of hope in the Asian Games context. Even as the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) must have rejoiced at the setting of news marks, the top officials and the coaches must surely have felt that everything had not gone according to plan.

Had they followed the script, then there should have been many more National marks, some more personal bests and season's bests from the top athletes in this meet, coming as it did a month before the start of the athletics events in Busan. There should have been keen contests to re-establish credentials among those selected and at the same time there should have been a desire to excel and attract attention by those who were on the fringe or who could have made a mark in order to be in the reckoning in future.

The other National record setter, Hardeep Kaur, came up with 61.67m in the hammer throw event.-RAJEEV BHATT

Instead, injuries and illness and perhaps some other reasons kept some of the confirmed team members out of this meet including P. Ramachandran, Manjima Kuriakose, Sunita Rani, Rachita Mistry, V. Jayalakshmi and Sandeep Sarkaria. National sprint record-holer Anil Kumar ran the heats and then complained of an injury to pull out of the 100m final. Bahadur Singh competed but fouled his first three throws in shot put to end up with a 'no mark'.

Gulab Chand also competed, despite a calf muscle strain, as it was explained later, in the 5000 metres and finished miserably. He could not show his customary 'kick' from 300 metres out when the others, led by Himachal Pradesh's Aman Saini, made the dash. Gulab was fourth behind I. A. Shivananda, Saini and Jagannath Lakade.

The next day, Gulab was selected for the Asian Games. It was a risk but the selectors felt it was worth it, considering his capacity to provide the surprise, as he did in the Asian championships in Fukuoka in 1998 and the Asian Games in Bangkok.

'Close-to-peak' would have been par in almost all the events in which India had entered in the Busan Games. That did not materialise fully though credit should go to Saraswati Saha (22.83s in 200m), K. M. Beenamol (2:02.18 in 800m), both second best efforts in their careers, Pramod Tiwari who threw to 68.77m for a season best under pressure and Harminder Singh who touched a personal best of 77.39 in javelin. That is apart from those who set National marks or equalled them.

Anju B. George equalled her long jump National record. Her 6.74m really stirred things up in the Asian Games context.-RAJEEV BHATT

There were notable personal bests for K. J. Manojlal (46.01s in 400m) and decathlete Kuwlinder Singh (7149 points). Other personal bests included those by a clutch of woman quarter-milers led by Jincy Philip (52.49), followed by Soma Biswas (53.25), Manjit Kaur (53.48) and S. Geetha (53.82), sprinter Sanjay Ghosh (10.46s) woman triple jumper Manisha Dey (13.35m) and high jumper Mahesh Kumar (2.11m).

Of the two National marks, the one by woman pole vaulter Karamjeet Kaur might be dismissed as routine, but one has to admire the resilience of this Punjab girl who, meet after meet, year after year, ploughs a lonely burrow. Without any challenge at that. This time she added a pehnomenal 20 centimetres to her own National mark while clearing 3.45m.

The other National record, by hammerwoman Hardeep Kaur, has cheered up the officials who see a medal chance for this Punjab woman in the Asian Games. At 61.67m, Hardeep might just have a slim chance for a medal but only if the others perform well below their potential and ranking. Hardeep's own previous National mark, set at the National Games in Ludhiana last year, was 61.56m.

Now, to the mark that has really stirred things up in the Asian Games context. Anju B. George came to the Capital from the hospital bed in Bangalore. No, there was nothing seriously wrong with the Commonwealth Games long jump bronze winner, but she did suffer from an infection, had a fever and felt weak to cause concern for husband and coach Bobby George.

But once into the competition, Anju was all business, despite clutching her throat a few times and looking a little concerned after an opening foul. She logged a 6.66m on her second attempt that brought the 'oohs and aahs' from the crowd as well as the technical men to the scene of action since that happened to be a meet record.

Anuradha Biswal (extreme left) equalled her National record of 13.38 in the women's 100m hurdles.-RAJEEV BHATT

The technical men were quickly brought back, for Anju leapt to a National-record equalling 6.74m on her third jump. There was a negligible headwind of 0.3 and as Bobby George noted much later, rather tongue-in-cheek, there was no 'incline' here compared to the Thiruvananthapuram runway where Anju had set her earlier 6.74, last year.

The 'incline' or the argument about it, had taken some sheen off Anju's previous mark, but this one should put her right on top of the gold medal contenders in the Asian Games, along with, of course, the woman who beat her in all the three Asian Grand Prix meets earlier this season, Yelena Kashcheyeva of Kazakhstan.

Pramod Tiwari had been getting adjusted to some new technique in 'turns' this season and had found it difficult to reach the qualifying norm of 68.50 till the Open even though he has a personal best of 70.05. He got it right at last, on his second throw, that measured 68.77 metres. He had gone into the championship rather confident of achieving his primary target, a norm, and looked forward to his maiden Asian Games experience.

Harminder Singh, on the other hand, had come into the limelight only during last year's National Games at Ludhiana, winning the javelin title, though he had been around for some time. This season, he had started reasonably well but was not thought of as a contender for the Asiad sport. Jagdish Bishnoi and Fazal Ansari were the candidates.

The vote seemed to have swung again in favour of Bishnoi when he touched distance of 76,00 metres in Ludhiana. But Harminder's 77.39, against the qualification mark of 78.00, plus Bishnoi's decline, finishing fourth with 71.45m, clinched the argument in the former's favour.

Someone who managed well above the ordinary and yet received very little attention was Kulwinder Singh in the decathlon. It normally happens with multi-eventers unless a National record is bettered. The Armyman's 7149 points is the first mark above 7100 since the days of National record holder V. S. Chouhan, Suresh Babu and Sabir Ali. It also bettered the long-standing meet record of 7070 (old tables) that stood in the name of Suresh Babu since 1978.

Harminder Singh's 77.39 in javelin was a new meet mark.-RAJEEV BHATT

This was a splendid improvement over his previous best of 6890, recorded in Bhopal in 1999. Kulwinder did well on the track and had a mixed bag in throws and jumps. He had a 11.23 for the 100m and a good-looking 49.73 for the 400m and wound up with a 4:45.26 in the last event, the 1500m where there could be quite some improvement. He did well in shot put at 12.63, was behind his best in discus at 38.88 but was well above par in javelin with a throw of 60.18 metres. He suffered a little in long jump and high jump, recording 6.57 and 1.82, both well below his best.

In an event where interest had dwindled steadily over the past two decades, Kulwinder has brought in new hope. With a foreign coach to assist the multis are bound to improve. And men like Kuwlinder, Mandeep Kumar who placed second in this meet, at 6678, Vinod P. J. and the others should benefit.

On the women's side, Saraswati Saha and K. M. Beenamol once again showed why they are rated so high by the coaches in the Asiad build-up programme. Saraswati's 22.83 was listed as a National record on the argument that her 22.82 at Ludhiana was yet to be ratified. But this was nothing but foolishness. If one keeps waiting for a whole year (and in the case of the last set of National records in 2000, almost two years) for the AAFI to ratify its records, there will be no end to writing on new National records being set at every other meet.

Another record that was also listed as a new National mark was that by Anuradha Biswal in the 100m hurdles. Her 13.38 was a repeat of her performance in the circuit meet in Delhi in August. The Orissa girl felt that with a little more opposition she was capable of clocking below 13 seconds. She will have the chance to test herself in tougher company in the Busan Asian Games.

The disappointments were many. Barring Shakti Singh, no shot putter touched even 18 metres. Shakti had a 19.42 to win his fourth competition of the season. the man who had challenged him last year as well as at the beginning of this season, Bahadur Singh, fouled all his three attempts. The Punjab Police officer felt that the sand particles which kept coming off the circle made him slip as he went through his turns.

Pramod Kumar Tiwari achieved the Asian Games norm with a good show in hammer throw.-RAJEEV BHATT

There has been a complaint about the circle in Delhi, but when Shakti could reach 19-plus on the same circle, it defied logic that the others were not even good enough to cross 18 metres. Navpreet Singh slotted 17.69 for the silver while a relative newcomer in Mohatam Singh of the Services had the bronze in just 16.93. Through the past three seasons, the talk had been about three Indians coming into the regular 20-21 metre range.

As the athletes got ready for the Asian Games, some with creditable performances, some with average and still others with considerable drop in performance-levels, the major worry for the coaches would have been the slide or the inconsistency factor in general. Whether the record performances were simply for the home audiences or whether they were true indicators of the proficiency that our athletes had reached will be clearly known when they perform on the Busan stage. Hopefully this time, there will no longer be the excuse of them having reached the 'peak' too early as had happened with the bunch that competed in the Sydney Olympics.

The results: Men:

100m: 1. Sanjay Ghosh (Ser) 10.46s, 2. Piyush Kumar (Rly) 10.54, 3. Ganesh Satpute (Mah) 10.62; 200m: 1. Anand Menezes (Rly) 21.06s (NMR, old 21.13s), 2. Ganesh Satpute (Mah) 21.75, 3. S. Srinivas (AP) 21.77; 400m: 1. K. J. Manojlal (Rly) 46.01s, 2. Satbir Singh (Ser) 46.39, 3. Paramjeet Singh (Pol) 46.45; 800m: 1. K. M. Binu (Rly) 1:48.69, 2. P. S. Primesh (LIC) 1:49.28, 3. K. A. Jaya Kumar (Pol) 1:49.32; 1500m: 1. Kuldeep Kumar (UP) 3:49.19, 2. Mahender Kumar Yadav (Ser) 3:50.56, 3. Ghamanda Ram (Ser) 3:51.18; 5000m: 1. I. A. Shivananda (Rly) 14:26.28, 2. Aman Saini (HP) 14:26.79, 3. Jagannath Lakade (Ser) 14:27.76; 10,000m: 1. Aman Saini (HP) 30:42.22, 2. Dharamvir (Rly) 30:43.42, 3. Jagannath Lakade (Ser) 30:45.84; 3000m steeplechase: 1. Arun D' Souza (Rly) 8:51.95, 2. Ranjan Kumar Jha (Ser) 9:02.74, 3. T. D. Verghese (Pol) 9:17.91; 110m hurdles: 1. P. T. Yesudas (Rly) 14.61s, 2. Harish Kushalappa (Kar) 14.66, 3. Kuldeep Singh (Ser) 14.89; 400m hurdles: 1. Shebin Joseph (Steel Plants) 51.80s, 2. G. Joseph (Pol) 51.90, 3. Prasad Reddy (Ser) 51.91.

High jump: 1. Mahesh Kumar (Ser) 2.11m, 2. Arumugam Pillai (Rly) 2.08, 3. M. Lorans (Ser) 2.08; Pole vault: 1. V. V. Geesh Kumar (AP) 4.90m, 2. Praveen Kumar (Rly) 4.80, 3. Jitender Kumar (Pol) 4.70; Long jump: 1. Shiv Shankar (UP) 7.65m, 2. S. Ramachandran (TN) 7.63, 3. Amrit Pal Singh (Pun) 7.45; Triple jump: 1.Amarjeet Singh (Pun) 15.90m, 2. Pritpal Singh (Pol) 15.70, 3. K. C. Saintison (Ser) 15.64.

Shot put: 1. Shakti Singh (Rly) 19.42m, 2. Navpreet Singh (Pun) 17.69, 3. Mohatam Singh (Ser) 16.93; Discus: 1. Hridayanand Singh (UP) 54.63m, 2. Krishna Kumar Sharma (Pol) 51.43, 3. Davinder Kumar (Pun) 49.91; Hammer: 1. Pramod Tiwari (UP) 68.77m, 2. Rakesh Kumar (Ser) 66.02, 3. Nirbhay Singh (Ser) 65.99; Javelin: 1. Harminder Singh (Pol) 77.39 (NMR, old 76.96), 2. Fazal Ansari (Ser) 72.60, 3. Sunil Goswami (LIC) 72.03.

Decathlon: 1. Kulwinder Singh (Ser) 7149 points (NMR, old 7070, old tables), 2. Mandeep Kumar (Rly) 6678, 3. Vinod P. J. (Steel Plants) 6462.

4x100m relay: 1. Services 40.84s, 2. Railways 40.92, 3. A.P 42.58; 4x400m relay: 1. Services 3:07.29, 2. Railways 3:08.61, 3. A.P. 3:14.69.

20,000m walk: 1. Sita Ram (Ser) 1:36:23.8, 2. Amreek Singh (Ser) 1:36:24.2, 3. Vijay Gehlot (Rly) 1:37:53.1.

Team championshp: 1. Services 144 points, 2. Railways 123. Best athlete: K. J. Manojlal.

Women:

100m: 1. Saraswati Saha (Rly) 11.43s (NMR, old 11.58s), 2. Poonam Tomar (Rly) 11.70, 3. Vinita Tripathi (LIC) 11.70; 200m: 1. Saraswati Saha (Rly) 22.83 (NMR, old 23.2), 2. Vinita Tripathi (LIC) 23.37, 3. Rajwinder Kaur (Pol) 24.74; 400m: 1. K. M. Beenamol (Rly) 51.90s (NMR, old 52.25), 2. Jincy Philip (Pol) 52.49, 3. Soma Biswas (Rly) 53.25; 800m: 1. K. M. Beenamol (Rly) 2:02.18, 2. Madhuri Singh (AISEB) 2:02.80, 3. C. Latha (TN) 2:03.61; 1500m: 1. Harjeet Kaur (Pol) 4:21.80, 2. Sunita Kumari (Rly) 4:24.26, 3. Paramjeet Kaur (Pun) 4:27.78; 5000m: 1. Pampa Chanda (Rly) 17:05.63, 2. Madhuri Gurnule (LIC) 17:20.77, 3. Swati Gurnule (Mah) 17:26.74; 10,00m: 1. L. Aruna Devi (Rly) 34:57.32 (NMR, old 35:27.0), 2. Pushpa Devi (Rly) 36:08.18, 3. Madhuri Gurnule (LIC) 36:21.61; 100m hurdles: 1. Anuradha Biswal (Ori) 13.38 (Equal National record), 2. Poonam Bojanna (Kar) 14.06, 3. J. J. Shobha (Rly) 14.18; 400m hurdles: 1. Roselin Arokia Mary (Rly) 59.02s, 2. Sahebani Oram (Rly) 59.72, 3. Babita (UP) 1:00.14.

High jump: 1. Sarita Patil (Mah) 1.72m, 2. Sahana Kumari (Kar) 1.69, 3. Jaicy Thomas (Rly) 1.66; Pole vault: 1. Karamjeet Kaur (Pun) 3.45m (National record, old 3.25m), 2. Chetna Solanki (Bih) 3.10, 3. V. S. Surekha (T.N) 3.00; Long jump: 1. Anju B. George (TN) 6.74m (equals National record), 2. J. J. Shobha (Rly) 6.34, 3. Jetty C. Joseph (LIC) 6.17; Triple jump: 1. Manisha Dey (Rly) 13.35m (NMR, old 13.28), 2. Shilpa Sequeira (LIC) 12.93, 3. M. Krishnapriya (TN) 12.63.

Shot put: 1. N. Latha (Rly) 15.40m, 2. Chaitali (Rly) 14.27, 3. Rina Rodrigues (Kar) 13.22; ; Discus: 1. Neelam J. Singh (Rly) 58.47m, 2. Harwant Kaur (LIC) 58.43, 3. Seema Antil (Har) 53.52; .Hammer: 1. Hardeep Kaur (LIC) 61.67m (National record, old 61.56), 2. Rajwinder Kaur (Pol) 52.76, 3. Ritu (Del) 47.99; javelin: 1. Gurmeet Kaur (LIC) 52.91m (NMR with new javelin, old 50.96), 2. Manisha Mondal (Rly) 49.28, 3. Suman Devi (UP) 47.69.

Heptathlon: 1. P. S. Bindu (Rly) 4718 pts, 2. Rosemary Anthony (Ker) 4543, 3. Sharda Patil (Mah) 3522.

4x100m relay: 1. Railways 46.86s, 2. Police 48.10, 3. A. P. 48.57; 4x400m relay: 1. Railways 3:38.49, 2. Punjab 3:42.65, 3. A. P. 3:58.80.

20,000m walk: 1. Y. Bala Devi (Rly) 1:55:25.4, 2. Ravina Antil (Har) 2:02:12.3, 3. Pratibha Mahamoni (Mah) 2:03:24.4.

Team championship: 1. Railways 182 points, 2. LIC 49. Best athlete: Saraswati Saha.