Maharashtra’s Sanyukta Kale swept all the five gold medals on offer in Rhythmic Gymnastics to emerge as the brightest star in the Khelo India Youth Games 2021 on Tuesday.
Andaman and Nicobar’s Celestina Chelobroy too jumped into the spotlight, clinching her third cycling gold on Day 2 of the event.
Sixteen-year-old Sanyukta’s clean sweep helped Maharashtra (24 gold, 22 silver, 17 bronze) sneak past Haryana (23G, 20S, 29B) at the time of writing. The hosts added only six gold on Day 5 of the Games as their Boys went down fighting in the kabaddi and volleyball finals much to the dismay of their fans.
Sanyukta, 16, towered over the field, clinching gold medals in all-round, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon rhythmic events. “I am very happy with my performance but my main focus is now to make it to the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games and then aim to qualify for the Paris Olympics,” said the Thane-resident.
While Sanyukta was on a roll, Celestina equalled her own record in the Khelo India Youth Games, pedalling away to her third gold at the IG Velodrome in New Delhi.
The 19-year-old had collected her first two gold medals, the Team Sprint (with Tina Maya) and Individual Sprint 200m events, on Monday itself. She rounded up her tally clinching the keirin 1500m gold, to match her own 2020 Khelo Games tally.
Maharashtra won both the 4x100 relays, the Girls 100m, the Boy’s high jump (Aniket Mane, with a 2.07m leap) to add to their two in wrestling and one in badminton.
At the time of writing, 24 states had won at least one gold while 30 have found a spot on the medals tally with Manipur holding on to the third spot with 12 gold.
Sadanand Kumar of Jharkhand was crowned the fastest boy of the meet, winning the 100m in 10.63sec while Maharashtra’s Sudeshna Shivankar dominated the Girls 100m event, clocking 11.79 seconds. She then came back to anchor the 4x100m relay team for a gold immediately after the boys achieved the same feat.
Action began in athletics with Madhya Pradesh’s Arjun Waskale bagging the first gold on the track by clinching the Boys 1500m race (3:51.57 seconds). Manipur’s Huidrom Bhumeshwory Devi of Manipur showcased her sprinting ability in the last lap to win the Girls 1500m race (4:40.40 seconds).
Elsewhere, Haryana’s rising badminton star Unnati Hooda came back from the brink to win the Girl’s singles title. Fourteen-year-old Unnati, the youngest Indian girl to make it to the Uber Cup team, looked down and out against former World Junior No. 1 Tasnim Mir but came back into the contest and won 9-21, 23-21, 21-12 in 47 enthralling minutes.
Maharashtra’s Darshan Pujari clinched the Badminton Boy’s Singles gold, beating S Rithvik Sanjeevi of Tamil Nadu 21-15, 22-20 to lift the spirits in their camp.
Earlier, in the Boy’s Kabaddi final, Himachal Pradesh fought back in the second half to beat hosts Haryana in extra-time.
The two teams went neck-and-neck in the first half. But the hosts looked like running away with the match when they opened up a 10-point lead, with just under five minutes left for full time.
But Himachal began closing the gap, first with a spectacular tackle and then with a super raid. They then packed off the entire Haryana team to level the scores at 34-34 at full time.
The Himachal players then kept their cool to catch all the five Haryana raiders while one of their own scored a bonus point to seal the victory.
At the Dr. Karni Singh Range, Tiyana Phogat handled the climax with remarkable assurance as she beat Junior World Cup gold medallist Palak Ghulia 16-6 for the air pistol gold.
With another international shooter Shikha Narwal bagging the bronze, it was celebration time for host Haryana, especially for coach Rakesh Thakur who has been training all the three at his academy.
After qualifying in the seventh place with a modest 565, as against Palak’s topping effort of 576, Tiyana was consistent right through the second stage and the gold match.
"I didn’t expect the gold. It was my first final. I wanted to perform my best. Was not thinking about the result’’, said Tiyana, a tenth standard student of DAV School in Gurugram.
Tiyana gave credit to her parents and coach for her strong foundation in shooting.
Coach Rakesh Thakur felt that Tiyana had found the rhythm and was aligned nicely to shoot her best.
"The confidence and rhythm Tiyana had in the final, carried her through the gold match’’, observed the coach.
Palak had recovered from the fifth place and enormous deficit to jump to the second spot and qualify for the gold contest 0.4 point behind Tiyana, but could not get to her best shooting in the end.
There was one jarring note for Haryana as another accomplished international shooter, Rhythm Sangwan had shot 564 and missed the final by one point. Yet, Haryana had enough fire power to sweep the medals.
(With inputs from Kamesh Srinivasan)