Sri Lankans run away with sprint golds

The opening day of the athletics events of the 12th South Asian Games went about as scripted as the Sri Lankans dashed off with the sprint gold medals and the Indians dominated elsewhere at the Indira Gandhi stadium, Sarasujai, here on Tuesday.

Himasha Eashan crossed the line first to a season-best of 10.28s and a new meet mark in the men’s 100m.   -  K. MURALI_KUMAR

The opening day of the athletics events of the 12th South Asian Games went about as scripted as the Sri Lankans dashed off with the sprint gold medals and the Indians dominated elsewhere at the Indira Gandhi stadium, Sarasujai, here on Tuesday.

Of the nine events which were decided on the opening day, India was served well by long jumper Mayookha Johny, throwers Manpreet Kaur Sr. and Neeraj Kumar, and long-distance runners Man Singh and L. Surya as the home team finished with a total of five gold medals. Besides the double in sprints, Sri Lanka also won the women’s 800m and men’s high jump, the latter by W. P. Manjulakumara after he was involved in a count-back after being tied at 2.17m with his Indian rival Tejaswini Shankar.

Perfect conditions

The day, as it turned, remained hazy all through and offered the best of conditions to the sprinters. And this was completely realised well by Himasha Eashan as he made light of the opposition in style to a season-best of 10.28s and a new meet mark in the men’s 100m.

The Sri Lankan was quick to get off the blocks, reacting sharply to the gun, and his dominance was never in doubt as he sped away from the rest of the field with his powerful strides. It did seem that it would be a 1-2 for Sri Lanka as Mohammed Ashrafu followed Eashan through the early part of the race. But this was not to be in the end as Saaid Hassan (Maldives) came in between the duo, accelerating nicely midway through.

Neeraj Kumar, likewise, emerged an easy winner of the hammer throw title as he was in the lead straightaway and touched his winning distance of 66.14 off his last attempt. However, Man Singh just about managed to squeak past compatriot Suresh Kumar in the 10,000m.

Rollercoaster

The two Indians were together upfront right from the start before exchanging the lead time and again. With two laps remaining, Suresh Kumar upped the ante and gained over his team-mate in search of the glittering piece of metal as he forged ahead and opened up a lead of over 10m. But Man Singh never gave up and inching closer to Suresh through the second half of the last 400m, overtook the latter to finish in 14:02.04.

In the women’s section, the 100m final was far more keenly fought when compared to the men’s. But still the fight that was provided by the Indian duo of Srabani Nanda and Dutee Chand did come only as a cropper as fancied Rumeshikha Ratnayaka strode to victory by clocking 11.71s. Nanda followed the leader just one-hundredths of a second while Duttee was time at 10.75s while winning the bronze medal.

Manpgreet Kaur Sr. was in rollicking form as she demolished the rest of the field in the shot put, winning the gold medal with a sixth attempt throw of 17.96m, just two centimetres shy of her own national record set last year. The Indian had a great series right through and did touch 17 metres or above in five of her attempts but for the foul which came in the second. Manpreet Kaur Jr. finished second with a distance of 15.96m, better than the existing Games mark of 15.52m.

Record-breaking win

The expectations were that Mayookha Johny will be pressed hard by her Sri Lankan rivals in the long jump. But this hardly materialised as the 27-year-old found the lead of 6.34m off her first trial and then achieved her winning and record-breaking distance of 6.43m off her last attempt. N.C.D. Priyadarshini and S.L.S. Silva were way off the mark during the day and this only helped Shradha Ghule to the silver with a leap of 6.19m.

The 27-year-old Mayookha, hailing from Kozhikode, was surprised by the poor showing of her Sri Lankan rivals. “I did expect 0tougher competition and would have done better if they had pushed me hard. But Priyadarshini was way off the mark fouling time and again. All the same, I am happy that I won in the end and that too with a new Games record.”

The results:

Men: 100m: 1. Himasha Eashan (SL), 10.28s – NGR; OR – 10.37s, 2. Saaid Hassan (Mal), 10.41s, 3. A.L.M. Ashrafu (SL), 10.69s.

5,000m: 1. Man Singh (Ind), 14: 02.04, 2. Suresh Kumar (Ind), 14:02.70, 3. Rimal Hari Kumar (Nep), 14:32.18.

High jump: 1. W.P. Manjulakumara (SL), 2.17m, 2. Tejaswini Shankar (Ind), 2.17m, 3. Ajay Kumar (Ind), 2.08m.

Hammer throw: 1. Neeraj Kumar (Ind), 66.14m, 2. Shakeel Ahmed (Pak), 63.67m, 3. L.A.D.E. Alansan (SL), 46.38m.

Women: 100m: 1. Rumeshika Ratnayaka (SL), 11.71s, 2. Srabani Nanda (Ind), 11.72s, 3. Dutee Chand (Ind), 11.75s.

800m: 1. W.K.L.A. Nimali (Sl), 2:09.40, 2. G.T.A. Abeyratna (SL), 2:09.64, 3. M. Gomathi (Ind), 2:10.99. 5,000m: 1. L. Surya (Ind), 15:45.75, 2. Swati Gadhave (Ind), 16:14.57, 3. U.K.N. Ratnayaka (SL), 17:00.85. Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny (Ind), 6.43m – NGR; OR – 6.42m, 2. Shradha Ghule (Ind), 6.19m, 3. S.L.S. Silva (SL), 5.89m.

Shot put: 1. Manpreet Kaur Sr. (Ind), 17.96m – NGR; OR – 15.52m, 2. Manpreet Kaur Jr. (Ind), 15.94m, 3. W.T.K. Fernando (SL), 14.87m.