From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.26 :: Jun. 27, 2009
Gold without glitter... Though Hari Shankar Roy won in Jamshedpur and Ranchi, he failed to attain the norm for the World Championships.
The top athletes of the country arrived in Jharkhand with the hope of qualifying for the World Championships in Berlin (August 15-23). But the results they achieved belied their aspirations as the athletes’ struggle continued in the final two legs of the Indian Grand Prix — held successively in Jamshedpur and Ranchi. The packed calendar seemed to take its toll on the athletes. Though this was the beginning of the athletics season, the Indian athletes had already gone through three domestic Grand Prix meets and an equal number of Asian GPs in China in May.
For the majority of the participants, the heat and humidity of peaking summer added to their woes. “I am desperately trying to get past 2.25 metres but am unable to push beyond 2.20,” lamented Hari Shankar Roy, the National high jump record holder. Though the Railways athlete won gold medals in Jamshedpur and Ranchi, he failed to get beyond 2.23 metres.
“When I did 2.21 metres in the third leg in Chennai, I was hoping to touch 2.28 metres which would have helped me better my record and also ensure me a berth in the World Championships,” said Roy. “This is the eighth event I’m participating in, in a little over a month. I tried my best but could not muster the energy,” he said after his effort in Ranchi.
Tamil Nadu’s Benedict Starli, who had beaten Roy a couple of times before, could not go beyond 2.15 metres and had to be content with silver medals in both the legs.
While the Jamshedpur leg was held in the afternoon, the athletes were spared the agony of competing in the heat in Ranchi where the final leg was held under the newly-installed floodlights at the Birsa Munda Stadium.
Maha Singh was hampered by a hamstring injury.
With the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) deciding to postpone the Federation Cup, the participants were hard pressed to try and attain the qualifying mark for the World Championships. Intermediate hurdler Joseph Abraham of Railways was the lone athlete to qualify for the world meet following an inspired performance in the third leg in Chennai. He had timed 49.59 seconds as against the qualifying mark of 49.80s.
Abraham sought to have some good practice in Jamshedpur and Ranchi. He won the gold with ease in both legs. While the afternoon sun slowed him down a bit in Jamshedpur — he clocked 50.08s — Abraham did much better under lights in Ranchi (49.87s). “These two meets gave me vital practice ahead of the World event where I will definitely try to better my personal best,” Abraham said.
Maha Singh was a sad man. Bogged down by a nagging hamstring injury, he came up with an average performance in long jump as he attempted to better the National record of 8.08 metres. “I had jumped 7.94m in Chennai. I was feeling fit and gaining good distance in my jumps, and I was confident of attaining the World Championship qualifying norm (8.05m) and also bettering the National record,” Maha Singh said.
But things didn’t go as expected for him in Jamshedpur. “After the second jump of 7.80m I felt a twitch in my left hamstring. I decided not go any further as I had ensured the gold medal,” the Railways athlete said.
Despite being advised rest by the Russian sports medicine expert Vladimir Crabchenko, Singh participated in the Ranchi leg. His decision seemed ill-advised as his hamstring injury recurred and he had to be content with 7.62m.
Krishna Poonia dominated the women’s discus throw.
The men’s 400m, an event where India has seen some great performances, was a drab affair with the absence of the two leading men in the field, Bibin Mathew and K. M. Binu.
While Mathew, who won all the three races in the first three legs, did not participate owing to his grandfather’s demise, Binu limped off with an injury after making a good start in Jamshedpur. In the event, V. B. Bineesh of Railways won the Jamshedpur leg clocking 47.33s, while Sheikh Mortaza of Bengal — 47.51s — emerged victor in Ranchi. Their timings, though, were way below the World Championships qualifying mark of 45.95.
Shameermon (Services) and Nidhi Singh (Railways) won the men’s and women’s 100m respectively in both legs.
Krishna Poonia continued to dominate the women’s discus throw, winning the gold in Jamshedpur with a heave of 56.48m. She opted out of the Ranchi leg where Seema Antil, the National record holder, claimed the gold with a throw of 55.43m. However, their efforts were nowhere near the qualifying mark — 58.50m — for the World Championships. Similar disappointments were seen in the men’s discus, javelin and shot-put.
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