WR men and SR women bag titles

WESTERN RAILWAY with 162.5 points and Southern Railway with 130 points won the men's and women's team titles respectively in the 68th All-India Railway athletic championships organised by South Central Railway at the Railway Recreation Club grounds in Secunderabad.

The meet however turned out to be a lacklustre affair despite the participation of several of the country's top track and field stars. One of the major reasons for this could have been the loose and uneven cinder track. Had the conditions been better, a few records and some outstanding performances could perhaps have been witnessed.

The three-day meet saw only one new meet record being created and that too in a field event — the women's high jump. Sahana Kumari of Southern Railway cleared a height of 1.76 metres on the first day to erase the old mark of 1.75m, set in 1994 by P. S. Bindu also of Southern.

For her record-breaking feat, Sahana Kumari was adjudged the best woman athlete of the meet while in the men's section the honour went to Virender Poonia of Western Railway. Poonia, who is an experienced international thrower, heaved the hammer to a distance of 59.84 metres on the final day. Although it was well below his own Railway record of 66.76 metres (which he established in 1998), the effort was good enough to get him the best athlete award. Piyush Kumar of Northern Railway won a sprint double and he emerged as the fastest man of the meet, winning the men's 100m in a time of 11.14 seconds. Earlier, Piyush had won the 200m gold. His timing in the 100m was poor but again it could be attributed to the track conditions. Piyush and Ganesh Satpute of Western went neck and neck initially but in the later stages Piyush managed to pull slightly ahead of Ganesh to take the gold. Ganesh finished a close second clocking 11.19, while Arshad Hussain of South Central was third in 11.31 seconds.

In the women's 100m too there was a keen contest. J. J. Shobha, who got to a good start, retained a slender lead till about 20m from the tape. At that stage Kavita Pandya of Western seemed to catch up. In the closing stages Rakhi Saha of Eastern also drew level and the trio crossed the line almost together. In fact, such was the effort Shobha had exerted that she went sprawling after she crossed the line. Finally a photo finish had to separate the three of them. It showed Shobha the winner with a time of 12.41 seconds, Rakhi Saha, also with 12.41 seconds, was given the second spot and Kavita Pandya finished third in 12.42 seconds.

Two other notable contests were witnessed. On the second day I. A. Sivanand of SCR won the gold in the men's 5000 metres after a keen tussle with Arun D'Souza of Southern. Both the internationals put up a good display and fought for the honours throughout the race. In the end, Sivanand was just a second ahead of Arun D'Souza.

In the men's 3000m steeplechase, Arun D'Souza proved once again that he was simply unbeatable over this distance. Three laps after the start he had established a 10m lead over the rest of the field. By five laps the lead had increased to about 20 metres and at the end he romped home at least 30m ahead of second placed Vijay Paul of Northern Railways. In the men's section Northern Railway and Southern Railway, both with 108 points, were declared joint second. In the women's category Eastern Railway with 92 points was second and Western Railway with 89 points came third.

Abhijit Sen Gupta