Surekha etches her mark in fitting manner

POST Manila blues! That was what one witnessed as the 43rd Open National Athletic Championship unfurled at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore.

AVINASH NAIR

POST Manila blues! That was what one witnessed as the 43rd Open National Athletic Championship unfurled at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore. Some took ill in Manila while a few others came back sick varying from malaria and suspected typhoid thus rendering their participation in the inaugural Afro Asian Games, also in doubt.

V. S. Surekha clears the bar at 3.51m, to create the lone National record of the meet. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

The big names, the likes of national sprint champion Anil Kumar, Busan silver medallist K. M. Binu, sure bets Bobby Aloysius and Pramila Aiyappa all stayed away with varied illness thus robbing the meet of its much publicised glamour.

But the few who did parade their talent all came by near perfect form as discus throwers Anil Kumar and Neelam J. Singh and high hurdler Naunidh Singh attained meet records.

Coming after Anju George's epic bronze winning performances at the Paris World Championship, the showing at the Open Nationals here did not look as though the athletes were motivated enough. But the younger crop with the likes of Tamil Nadu's V.S. Surekha and Karnataka's Vilas Nilgund etched their marks in a fitting manner.

Neelam J. Singh with a throw of 61.17m not only set a meet record, but also proved that she is the queen of women's discus. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Vilas Nilgund did burst into the National scene with his sprinting prowess at the Shimoga junior Nationals early this year. But the 21-year-old from Al Ameen College, Bangalore could not have asked for a better platform than the Open Nationals to steal the limelight at the senior level.

True Anil Kumar and his fellow Services' teammate Sanjay Ghosh were missing from the 100 metres line-up. But with the AAFI setting a qualifying standard of 10.8 seconds for participating in this Nationals, the quality could not be mistaken. Though Vilas himself clocked a none too impressive 10.7 seconds for his gold winning effort, his besting of fancied names like Sandeep Sarkaria and Piyush Kumar could not be discounted. That another medal hopeful from Karnataka, Mohammed Mudassir who too went to Manila for the Asian Championship as a reserve, did not qualify for the final, should put Vilas's performance in perspective.

The meet saw Surekha coming out of the shadows of her idol Karamjit Kaur and set a new mark. Surekha the 19-year-old from Chennai's M.O.P. Vaishnav College, a long jumper of promise only two years ago, created a national record in the pole vault with a clearance of 3.51 metres a memorable feat watched and applauded by Karamjit. The little-made Surekha could not hide her glee, despite her three failures while attempting 3.60 metres, but was confidence personified when she said "by this year end I should go over 3.80 metres''. Big words from a little girl with sky high ambition! Surekha's National record effort came even as Karamjit and fellow vaulter Suman had long ended their competition in this championship at a dismal 3.30 metres.

Saraswati Saha (702) winning the 100m event. She went on to claim the 200m too. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Saraswati Saha after her impressive showing at the Busan Asian Games was laid low with injuries. But here the strong sprinter from Railways made her welcome return to fitness and form, with a creditable sprint double. Saraswati made light of the challenge and sped to the tape ahead of a fast finishing Greeshma of Kerala in the 100 metres and then went on to stave off the big made Poonam Tomar's Challenge in the 200 metres.

Also bagging a double were long distance runner Gulab Chand and heptathlete J. J. Shobha, both of Railways.

Gulab Chand won the first gold at stake in this championship winning the 1500 metres. Running within striking distance of early leaders C. Hamza and Lekhraj both of Services before hitting the front and making it a no contest thereafter. Even in the 5000 metres Gulab, the 30-year-old Railway runner, a Chief TTI at Varanasi, cantered home, ahead of Hamza again. Gulab however was not at his best here and blamed Bangalore's altitude and hectic scheduling as the reason.

J. J. Shobha, who won the long jump and heptathlon events. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Shobha donned the second fiddle to Soma Boswas and Pramil Ganapathi in the seven event heptathlon. But here the South Central Railway employee stationed at Hyderabad, did well in all her events and with Soma limping away in the final event — the 800 metres with cramps — Shobha won unhindered with 5733 points which was six points short of Soma's meet record of 5739 set in Chennai two years ago.

Shobha then leapt to a distance of 6.10 metres to win the long jump gold, as well, which was lesser than her heptathlon achievement of 6.16 metres, her personal best. But then the long jump field sans Anju and Pramila was hardly anything to talk about. Ruta Patkar the Maharashtra girl training under SAI coach Nishad Kumar in Bangalore and now on contract with Tata Steels in Jharkhand, barely managed a 5.96 metres while Kerala's Jetty C. Joseph reserved her best for the final leap and a 6.04 m, enough to fetch the silver behind Shobha.

Sunita Rani of Police and tainted after the Asian Games doping imbroglio, has been ridden with injuries and poor form. But having participated in four events at the World Police Games, Sunita did get her performance level up and ran a well paced 1500 metres in 4:17.57 seconds to finish well ahead of Sunita Khanojia of Railways.

Naunidh Singh, who set a meet record in the 110m hurdles, was declared the best male athlete of the championship. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Chitra Soman, also representing Jharkhand ran a poor fourth in the heats of the 400 metres hurdles for women and made the final only as one of the two best losers. However in the final it was the Kerala girl who ran superbly to stop the clock at 59.31 seconds to pip TN's Roseline Arokia Mary. V. Prasad Reddy won the corresponding event for men ahead of fellow Servicemen Kanwar Rakesh.

Jasmine Kaur, the petite 26-year-old ASI from Punjab Police would pass off as just another `nobody'. The frail girl is packed with reserves and resoluteness as she walked into the record books with a one hour 48:28.8 seconds effort in the 20 km walk. This was better than her own time set in Chennai in 2001.

The second day belonged to Naunidh Singh of Police and Anil Kumar of Haryana. Naunidh was streets ahead of the field in the 110 metres hurdles winning in 14.12 seconds and thus bettering Gurpreet Singh's mark of 14.18 seconds at Chennai. Running in lane four, Naunidh accelerated well from the third hurdle and simply went on to finish a clear four strides ahead of Gurpreet.

Vilas Nilgund (612) emerged the fastest man of the meet beating fancied runners in the 100m. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Anil Kumar for his exploits in the discus ring is a household name. Training under Nemeth Pal at Szombathelly in Hungary for the last two years, Anil wanted to prove his ability. "Have been under intense training but have not matched that with performance in competitions... wanted to prove to my detractors that I can also do well,'' said the Haryanvi. Anil who claims to be doing 64.00 plus consistently in training managed a 60.07 metres for the gold and New Meet record.

"I was hampered by an ankle injury just prior to the Asian Championship and thus managed only a 59.50 metres effort for the bronze... but shall come back good in the AAG,'' promised Anil.

Neelam J. Singh provided the silver lining on an otherwise drab final day with a 61.17 metres throw in the discus and underlined her supremacy. Neelam, who became the first Indian to qualify for the finals of a world event with a 60.33 effort in the qualifiers at Paris has not been hitting the 60 metre mark in domestic events. And in Paris too came short with a 58 plus throw in the finals. But with a personal best of 64.55 metres set at the Busan Asian Games, Neelam did her confidence a world of good, with a 61.17 metres throw to erase her earlier mark of 59.18 metres in '98 (Kolkata). "I've been nursing a shoulder injury even during the World Championship... but now a new pain has developed in my lower back which is worrying. Need to consult a good doctor back home before beginning my preparation for the AAG,'' said the unassuming Neelam.

Anil Kumar paraded his talent by heaving the discus to a new mark (60.07m). — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Other impressive performances came from TN's K. N. Priya who dipped ahead of Soma Biswas to win the 100 metres hurdles gold and Karnataka's 4x100 metres relay quartet which surprised fancied Railways and Services to win the gold. The foursome of B. C. Nagaraj, Vilas Nilgund, Parmeshwar and Mohd. Mudassir showed splendid coordination in winning the event in 40.62 seconds, with Railways coming in at 40.67 seconds for the silver.

Priya, pitted in the outside lane, showed maturity beyond her age to dip that much quicker than Soma, in lane four, to win the hurdles gold at 14.02 seconds. "I am concentrating on 100m and 100 metres hurdles only,'' said the MBA student from MOP Vaishnav College, Chennai who in her earlier years tried every possible event and used to win most of them too.

Sahana Kumari of Railways and Karnataka won the women's high jump event in the absence of Bobby Aloysius pipping TN's M. Sangeetha on lesser fouls. Both the jumpers cleared 1.75 metres.

Gulab Chand (656) winning the 1500m from C. Hamza (113). The two again finished first and second in the 5000m. — Pic. V. SREENIVASA MURTHY-

Pinki Pramanik of Railways emerged a surprise packet in the 400 metres winning from Jincy Philips and S. Geeta while the men's quarter mile gold went to K. J. Manoj Lal. "I have not run the individual event in 400 metres in an international event,'' said Manoj on his Manila experience where he finished fourth. Here however the dimunitive runner ran a fine last 250 metres to stave off the challenge from P. Ramachandran, who was making a comeback of sorts.

P. S. Primesh of LIC ran the two-lapper with sublime grace and confidence to win in style at 1:49.61 seconds with Ghamand Ram (Services) coming in a close second.

Services and Railways expectedly emerged undisputed champions in the men's and women's section respectively. Railways were overall champions.

Police's Naunidh Singh and V. S. Surekha of Tamil Nadu, the lone national record breaker in the meet, walked away with the individual honours as `best men and women athletes'.

Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL), on behalf of the All India Electricity Sports Control Board did an admirable job as organisers and the three-day proceedings went on without a hitch.

The results. Men.

100m: 1. Vilas Nilgund (Kar) 10.70, 2. Piyush Kumar (Rlys) 10.73s, 3. Sandeep Sarkaria (LIC) 10.76s; 1500m: 1. Gulab Chand (Rlys) 3:56.11s, 2. C. Hamsa (Serv) 3:56.48s, 3. B. K. Manjunath (Kar) 3:59.97s; 400m Hurdles: 1. V. Prasad Reddy (SSCB) 51.54s, 2. Kanwar Rakesh (SSCB) 52.30s, 3. Joseph C Abraham (Pol) 52.31s; 20 km walk: 1. Seetharam (SSCB) 1 hr.32:22.5s, 2. Gurdev Singh (SSCB) 1 hr.33:21.0s, 3. Amrik Singh (SSCB) 1 hr. 33:48.8s; High jump: 1. Hari Shankar Roy (WB) 2.12m, 2. Benedict Strity (TN) 2.12m, 3. M. Lorens (SSCB) 2.09m; Pole vault: 1. Jitendra Singh (Pol) 4.90m, 2. Parveen Kumar (Rlys) 4.80m, 3. Ramdhari (Ser) 4.80m; Hammer throw: 1. Pramod Tiwari (UP) 67.70m, 2. Rakesh Kumar (UP) 66.26m, 3. Birkaran Singh (Pun) 65.13m; 400m: 1. K.J.Manoj Lal (Rlys) 46.04s, 2. P. Ramachandran (TN) 46.81s, 3. Anil Kumar Rohil (SSCB) 47.12s; 10000m: 1. I. Shivananda (Rlys) 33:34.33s, 2. K. Upendra (Pol) 33:34.59s, 3. Puran Chand (Rlys) 33:44.44s; 110m Hurdles: 1. Naunidh Singh (Pol) 14.12 s (NMR), 2. Gurpreet Singh (Pol) 14.50s, 3. Krishna Mohan (SSCB) 14.52s; Long jump: 1. Sanjay Kumar Rai (Rlys) 7.58m, 2. Maha Singh (Rlys) 7.43m, 3. Ramachandran (SSCB) 7.31m; Discus throw: 1. Anil Kumar (Har) 60.07m (NMR), 2. Surusevak Singh (Pol) 53.89m, 3. Hridayanand Singh (Uttaranchal) 53.86m; 4x100m Relay: 1. Karnataka 40.62s, 2. Railways 40.67s, 3. Services 41.14s; Decathlon: 1. Kulwinder Singh (SSCB) 7094 pts, 2. Mandeep Kumar (Rlys) 6815 pts, 3. Jora Singh (Pol) 6598 pts; 200m: 1. Piyush Kumar (Rlys) 21.29s, 2. Vilas Nilgund (Kar) 21.42s, 3. Abhishek Pandey (LIC) 21.46s; 800m: 1. P.S. Primesh (LIC) 1:49.61s, 2. Ghamnda Ram (SSCB) 1:50.47s, 3. Jay Kumar (Ker) 1:51.09s; 5000m: 1. Gulab Chand (Rlys) 15:15.5s, 2. C. Hamza (SSCB) 16:16.1s, 3. I. Shivananda (Rlys) 15:16.7s; Triple jump: 1. Sanjai Diwvedi (SSCB) 15.50m, 2. K.C. Saintison (SSCB) 15.42m, 3. Bhupinder Singh (Pol) 15.28m; Shot put: 1. Bahadur Singh (Pol) 19.59m (EMR), 2. Shakti Singh (Rlys) 18.69m, 3. Mohtam Singh (SSCB) 17.72m; Javelin throw: 1. Fazal Ansari (SSCB) 72.74m, 2. Gajender Singh (Rlys) 70.72m, 3. Rai Singh (Rlys) 70.37m; 3000m Steeplechase: 1. Arun D'Souza (Rlys) 9:07.77s, 2. R.B. Subba (Pol) 9:09.95s, 3. R. Suresh (SSCB) 9:29.45s; 4x400m Relay: 1. Services 3:11.37s, 2. Railways 3:14.54s, 3. Tamil Nadu 3:16.28s.

Women.

100m: 1. Saraswati Saha (Rlys) 11.70m, 2. Greeshma K. K (Ker) 12.09m, 3. Rakhi Saha (Rlys) 12.17s; 1500m: 1. Sunita Rani (Pol) 4:17.57s, 2. Sunita (Rlys) 4:33.01s, 3. B. Hemlatha (Rlys) 4:36.36s; 400m Hurdles: 1. Chitra K. Soman (Jhar) 59.3s, 2. Roseline Arokia Mary (Rlys) 59.57s, 3. Rajwinder Kaur (Pol) 59.95s; Pole vault: 1. V.S. Surekha (TN) 3.51m (National Record) (Previous: Karamjit Kaur 3.50m - Fed. Cup, Hyderabad 2003), 2. Karamjit Kaur (Pol) 3.30m, 3. Suman (Har) 3.30m; Hammer throw: 1. Hardeep Kaur (Pun) 57.80m, 2. Ritu Rani Del) 54.37m, 3. Alka Tiwari (LIC) 53.22m; 400m: 1. Pinki Pramanik (Rlys) 54.19s, 2. Jincy Philips (Pol) 54.22s, 3. S. Geetha (Rlys) 54.71s; 5000 m: 1. Madhuri Gurnule (LIC) 17:13.91s, 2. Pushpa Devi (Rlys) 17:19.96s, 3. Geetha Roy (Pol) 17:53.92s; 100 m Hurdles: 1. K.N. Priya (TN) 14.02s, 2. Soma Biswas (Rlys) 14.03s, 3. J. J. Shobha (Rlys) 14.32s; High jump: 1. Sahana Kumari (Rlys) 1.75m, 2. M. Sangeeta (TN) 1.75m, 3. Sarita Patil (Mah) 1.69m; Triple jump: 1. Manisha Dey (Rlys) 13.16m, 2. Tincy Philip (Ker) 12.50m, 3. Sahana Sulaiman (Ker) 12.44m; Shot put: 1. N. Latha (Rlys) 15.82m, 2. Chaitali Paul (Rlys) 14.56m, 3. Reena Rodrigues (Rlys) 11.99m; Javelin throw: 1. Gurmeet Kaur (LIC) 51.64m, 2. Suman Devi (Rlys) 49.67m, 3. Manisha Mandal (Rlys) 45.95m; 20 km walk: 1. Jasmine Kaur (Pol) 1 hr.48:28.8s, 2. Y. Bala Devi (Rlys) 1 hr. 52:38.9s, 3. Ravina Antil (Har) 1 hr.53:33.7s; 200m: 1. Saraswati Saha (Rlys) 23.75s, 2. Poonam Tomar (Rlys) 24.35s, 3. Rajwinder Kaur Gill (Pol) 24.68s; 800m: 1. Sunita Khanojia (Rlys) 2:07.65s, 2. Pinki Pramanik (Rlys) 2:09.05s, 3. Ramala Devi (Pun) 2:09.78s; 10,000m: 1. L. Aruna Devi (Rlys) 36:07.03s, 2. Madhuri Gurnule (LIC) 36:17.2s, 3. Pushpa Devi (Rlys) 36:26.7s; Long jump: 1. J. J. Shobha (Rlys) 6.10m, 2. Jetty C. Joseph (Ker) 6.04m, 3. Ruta Patkar (Jhar) 5.96m; Discus throw: 1. Neelam J. Singh (Rlys) 61.17m (NMR), 2. Harwant Kaur (Rlys) 55.00m, 3. Krishna Poonia (Rlys) 52.55m; 3000m Steeplechase: 1. B. Hemalatha (Rlys) 11:07.65s, 2. Jaswinder Kaur (Rlys) 11:11.18s, 3. L. Manjula (Kar) 11:22.81s; Heptathlon: 1. J.J. Shobha (Rlys) 5733pts, 2. P. Bindu (Rlys) 4837 pts, 3. Soma Biswas (Rlys) 4806 pts.

Overall team championship: Railways (343.5 points). Team championship: Men: Services (151). Women: Railways (216).

Individual champions: Men: Naunidh Singh (Police). Women: V. S. Surekha (TN).