Preeja and Abraham adjudged best

Surender Singh, who trains under Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev, has emerged as a bright prospect in the long-distance events.-S. PATRONOBISH

Despite the absence of some top athletes, the four-day meet sprang a few exceptional performances and records, especially in the long-distance events. Amitabha Das Sharma reports

Kolkata hosted the second biggest athletic meet in the country, the Federation Cup, after a long break. The four-day event witnessed a few exceptional performances that relieved the spectators from the general mediocrity that has become a trend in the sport.

There was some initial scepticism about the timing of the event, especially since the big names decided to stay away from the meet. These athletes did not participate because they, apparently, were not in a condition to compete.

J. J. Shobha, one of the best heptathletes in the country, was of the view that the tournament came too early in the season and so opted out of her pet event. She, however, chose to take part in a few other events.

Anju Bobby George, the star of Indian athletics, too stayed away, which took some sheen out of the long jump event. Also withdrawing from the competition were 400m exponent K. M. Binu and Benedict Starly, whose absence robbed the men's high jump of the possibility of a great contest, leaving his arch rival Harishankar Roy unchallenged.

India's Belarusian coach Nikolai Snesarev refused to accept that the event was ill-timed. "This event was slotted on suggestions put forth by all the national level coaches,'' he said. Snesarev felt that the Federation Cup was planned as a pedestal to jumpstart a series of international assignments in the coming three months. "This tournament offers the best chance for a serious rehearsal. We first have the Asian Grand Prix next month in Guwahati and Pune, followed by the Asian Championship in Beirut in July. And then there is the World Championships (in Osaka) exactly a month later in the last week of August,'' he pointed out.

"With each of these tournaments separated only by a month the athletes can reach their peaks on every occasion. So, those who are calling this an off-season are not conversant with the latest approach in world athletics,'' he added.

Snesarev, who is supervising a group of National campers of middle and long distance runners, said the selected athletes in the "endurance running events'' have shown notable improvement in timings in a span of 18 months and the future looks good for them. His wards did not disappoint on the field.

Records were mostly set in the long distance events. Preeja Sreedharan of Kerala was outstanding. In the 10,000 metres, she re-wrote her own National record that she set barely five months ago at the Doha Asian Games. This was the fourth time in a year that Preeja had broken the record.

Snesarev was all praise for Preeja, saying she was one of the best prospects for a medal at the international level. The coach acknowledged that she had made remarkable progress in both her events — the 5000- and the 10,000-metre runs.

However, Preeja's performance was better in the 10,000 metres where she improved her timing by almost six minutes in a short span.

Kolkata, with its heat and high humidity levels, was not the best of places for long-distance running. But Preeja was undaunted as she braved the odds to win the 10,000 metres in a record time of 33.19.71.

Preeja's challenger Kavita Raut of Maharashtra, coming back after a lay-off due to injury, finished second in 34:56.51. In the process, she also bettered the championship record of 35:05.18 seconds set by Sunita Rani in 2000.

In the men's section, Surender Singh of Army attained a golden double, setting meet records in both the 5000 and 10,000-metre runs. In the 5000 metres on the opening day, Surender clocked 13:51.64 seconds. Apart from posting his personal best timing, he also erased Gulab Chand's nine-year-old record of 14:01.33, making it the fastest time in the event on Indian soil. The National record for the event stands in the name of Bahadur Prasad, who timed 13:29.70s in Birmingham in June 1992.

Surender, who also trains under Snesarev, has emerged as a bright prospect in the long-distance events. He has a good endurance level and has shown the right discipline, thanks to the training he is receiving from Snesarev. He has shown the knack and the ability to emulate his famous predecessors such as Gulab Chand and Bahadur Prasad.

Preeja Sreedharan.-S. PATRONOBISH

Surender's performance brought back memories of July 1998, when Chand set meet records in both the 5000 and 10,000 events. In the 10,000 metres, Surender clocked 28:57.90 seconds to sink the meet record of 29:40.70 that stood in the name of Chand. The timing is the third all-time best by an Indian.

Working on Snesarev's method of maintaining a pace of 69-70 seconds per lap, Surender stuck to his task and showed good timing at the halfway stage. But with his opponents unable keep pace with him, Singh slowed down a bit in the later stages. Otherwise he could have posted an even better timing.

Santosh Kumar Patel (29:19.37) of Jharkhand and Sadashivam Raghunath (29:28.52) of Tamil Nadu also put up a creditable show, with both bettering the meet record.

"I am aiming for a timing in the region of 28:30 seconds and would try to attain it in the Asian Championships (in July in Lebanon),'' Surender said after the race.

The next best performance was by Joseph Abraham of CRPF. He broke the National record in the men's 400m hurdles. The plucky hurdler, whose 50.04 seconds fetched him the gold medal, was upset that he could not breach the 50-second barrier. The previous record too belonged to Abraham; he set the mark barely six months ago.

"I have been working hard to break the 50-second barrier,'' said the runner who showed incredible levels of energy as his best effort came at the end of five races he had run in just two days.

Proving himself as one of the finest prospects in middle-distance running, Abraham also struck gold in the 400 metres. In absence of K. M. Binu, Abraham was unbeatable as he led the field from start to finish. The 2006 SAF Games bronze medallist has made steady progress under coach Rajinder Singh.

Sinimol Paulose of Jharkhand also gave a good account of herself by winning the women's 800m and 1500m. She came close to breaking the records in both the events.

Sinimol, who has already attained the World Championship B qualifying mark in 1500m, is another athlete who is considered a medal prospect.

Susmita Singha Roy won the heptathlon gold in the absence of Shobha. Her win, though, came after some drama. The local favourite Susmita, the Asian Championship silver medallist who is considered a world standard athlete by the chief national coach Bahadur Singh, almost missed the title when she failed to register even a single legal throw in the javelin. Sinimol M. P. of Kerala, however, failed to take advantage of this and lost to Susmita by just four points. Had the Kerala heptathlete run the concluding 800m 0.5 second faster she could have created a major upset in the event.

On the final day, three more records tumbled. Ranjith Maheshwary of Kerala set the meet record in triple jump, clearing 16.72 metres. Harishankar Roy bettered his own meet record in high jump with a leap of 2.21 metres, while C. Hamza of Army won the men's 1500 metres with a timing of 3:41.12.

Joseph Abraham collected 1131 points to win the best male athlete award, while Preeja Sreedharan, with 1058 points, was adjudged the best female athlete of the meet.

Ranjith Maheshwary of Kerala who set the meet record in triple jump.-S. MAHINSHA

The results

Men — 100m: 1. B. G. Nagraj (Jhar) 10.69s, 2. Sameer Mon (Army) 10.73, 3. Rahamatulla Molla (Ben) 10.84. 200m: 1. P. Muthusamy (TN) 21.70, 2. Ritesh Anand (Jhar) 21.74s, 3. Ajay Kumar (Har) 21.96. 400m: 1. Joseph Abraham (CRPF) 46.89s, 2. Sarish Paul (Army) 47.37, 3. Vinay Chaudhary (UP) 47.63. 800m: 1. Francis Sagyaraj (Army) 1: 48.27s, 2. C. Hamza (Army) 1:48.29, 3. Sajeesh Joseph (Ker) 1:48.34. 1500m: 1. C. Hamza (Army) 3:41.12s (NMR. Old: Kuldeep Kumar (UP) 3:44.18, June 2002), 2. Sajeesh Joseph (Ker) 3:43.13 (BMR), 3. Rajeev R. (Ker) 3: 45.96. 5000m: 1. Surinder Singh (Army) 13:51.64s (NMR. Old: Gulab Chand (UP) 14:01.33, July 1998); 2. Kasinath Aswale (Jhar) 13:54.42 (BMR), 3. S. Raghunath (TN) 14: 04.58. 10,000m: 1. Surender Singh (Army) 28: 57.90s (NMR. Old: Gulab Chand (UP) 29:40.70, July 1998), 2. Santosh Patel (Jhar) 29:19.37 (BMR), 3. S. Ragunath (TN) 29:28.52 (BMR). 4 x 100m relay: 1. Jharkhand 41.49s, 2. Army 41.62, 3. Tamil Nadu 41.66. 4 x 400m relay: 1. Army 3:13.77s, 2. Tamil Nadu 3:17.76, 3. CRPF 3:21.98. 20km walk: 1. P. S. Jalan (Army) 1:34:20.3s, 2. Babu Bhai (Mah) 1:34:33.1, 3. Samundro Singh (Army) 1:36:41.9. 110m hurdles: Naunidh Singh (BSF) 14.29s, 2. P. Muthusamy (TN) 14.38, 3. Rohit Hawal (Jhar) 14.52. 400m hurdles: 1. Joseph Abraham (CRPF) 50.04s (NNR. Old: Joseph Abraham 50.22, November 2006), 2. P. Shankar (ONGC) 51.84, 3. Kuldev Singh (Punjab Police) 51.97. 3000m steeplechase: 1. Om Prakash (Army) 9:06.13s, 2. Bhagwan Diwakar Giri (Har) 9:06.69, 3. Mahesh Kumar (Mah) 9: 11.24. High jump: 1. Harishankar Roy (Ben) 2.21m (NMR. Old: Benedict Starly (TN) 2.13, March 2006), 2. Abhishek Roy (Ben) 2.10, 3. Vinod Kumar (Guj) 2.05. Pole vault: 1. Navin Kumar (Army) 4.90m, 2. Bijender Singh (Army) 4.80, 3. Sundar Singh (BSF) 4.60. Long jump: 1. Rajesh R. (Ker) 7.68m, 2. Bhartender Singh (Har) 7.35, 3. K. J. Clinton (Ker) 7.34. Triple jump: 1. Ranjith Maheswary (Ker) 16.72m (NMR. Old: Amarjeet Singh (Pun) 16.58, March 2006), 2. Bibin Mathew (Ker) 16.48, 3. Amarjeet Singh (Pun) 16.19. Javelin: 1. Anil Kumar (Har) 73.61m, 2. Sunil Goswami (Del) 72.72, 3. Om Narayan (Har) 71.08. Discus: 1. Harpreet Singh (ONGC) 52.11m, 2. Amaritpal Singh (Pun) 51.49, 3. Sunil Kumar (Army) 50.45. Shot put: 1. Sourabh Vij (Del) 18.26m, 2. P. B. Giri (Army) 17.65, 3. Ramesh Kumar (Army) 14.77. Hammer: 1. Nirbhay Singh (UP) 65.17m, 2. Harinder Singh (Punjab Police) 62.65, 3. Yogesh (Army) 61.42. Decathlon: 1. P. J. Vinod (Ker) 7004 pts, 2. Ram Niwas (Har) 6691, 3. Bhupendra Singh (BSF) 6487.

Women — 100m: 1. Poonam Tomar (Del) 12.16s, 2. H. M. Jyothi (AP) 12.19, 3. Ranjita Roy (Ben) 12.36. 200m: 1. Rajwinder Kaur (Punjab Police) 25.11s, 2. Susmita Singha Roy (Ben) 25.15, 3. H. M. Jyothi (AP) 25.27. 400m: 1. Chitra Soman (ONGC) 53.43s, 2. Iyleen Samantha (AP) 53.47, 3. Manjit Kaur (Punjab Police) 53.86. 800m: 1. Sinimol Paulose (Jhar) 2:05.13s, 2. Susma (Del) 2:05.51, 3. Vijila A. (Ker) 2:06.67. 1500m: 1. Sinimol Paulose (Jhar) 4:11.66s, 2. Susma (Del) 4:13.22, 3. Jhuma Khatun (Ben) 4:22.60. 5000m: 1. Preeja Sreedharan (Ker) 16:07.93s, 2. Kavita Raut (Mah) 16:36.47, 3. Preeti L. Rao (Jhar) 16:45.25. 10,000m: 1. Preeja Sreedharan (Ker) 33:19.71s (NNR. Old: Preeja Sreedharan 33:48.35, Doha, December 2006), 2. Kavita Raut (Mah) 34:56.51 (BMR), 3. Pampa Chanda (Ben) 36:03.25. 4 x 100m relay: 1. Tamil Nadu 48.43s, 2. Andhra Pradesh 48.44, 3. Kerala 49.37. 4 x 400m relay: 1. Kerala 3:45.47s, 2. Andhra Pradesh 3:48.91, 3. West Bengal 3:49.38. 20km walk: 1. Y. Bala Devi (Ben) 1:48:40.99s; 2. Supriya Adhak (Mah) 1:56:49.15, 3. Subhasmita Rath (Ori) 2:10:42.74. 100m hurdles: 1. Anuradha Biswal (Ori) 14.01s, Poonam Bojwana (Kar) 14.13, J. J. Shobha (AP) 14.32. 400m Hurdles: 1. Harani Chandrashekar (Kar) 1:00.31s, 2. Harpreet Kaur (Pun) 1:00.55, 3. Sutapa Das (Ben) 1:01.86. 3000m steeplechase: 1. Sudha Singh (UP) 11:11.58s, 2. Kamlesh Baghel (UP) 11:19.03, 3. Ningombam Ibengobi Devi (Mani) 11:32.34. High jump: 1. Sahana Kumari (Jhar) 1.80m, 2. Tintu Verghese (Ker) 1.63, Mallika Mondal (Ben) 1.63. Pole vault: 1. M. Madhusini Devi (UP) 3.50m, 2. Tapasi Nandy (Ben) 3.10. Long jump: 1. Reshmi Bose (Ker) 6.05m, 2. G. G. Pramila (Jhar) 5.96, 3. Sinimol M. P. Kerala 5.90. Triple jump: 1. Manisha Dey (Ben) 12.62m, 2. Alka Chekly A. P. (Ker), 3. Sarbjit (CRPF) 12.29. Javelin: 1. Gurpreet Kaur (Har) 46.01m, 2. Nisha Rani (Har) 44.55, 3. Mukesh Rani (Har) 43.18. Discus: 1. Seema Antil (CRPF) 58.09m, 2. Krishna Punia (Raj) 57.02, 3. Harwant Kaur (Punjab Police) 55.38. Shot put: 1. Manpreet Kaur (Pun) 14.42m, 2. Saroj Sihag (CRPF) 14.28, 3. J. J. Shobha (AP) 12.28. Heptathlon: 1. Susmita Singha Roy (Ben) 4891 points, 2. Sinimol M. P. (Ker) 4887, 3. V. Leelavathi (TN) 4261.

Team positions

Men: 1. Army 129 points, 2. Kerala 47, 3. Tamil Nadu 43, 4. Jharkhand 38, 5. Haryana 33.

Women: 1. Bengal 101, 2. Kerala 62, 3. Jharkhand 33, 4. Andhra Pradesh 33, 5. Uttar Pradesh 29.