From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.33 :: Aug. 15, 2009

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ATHLETICS

Indian angle: Nothing much to look forward to

On the placings table for the World Championships there are just two entries against India. Both belong to long jumper Anju George; a path-breaking bronze, with 6.70 metres in Paris in 2003 and a fifth place, with 6.66m, in Helsinki two years later. Just one medal since 1983, but it looks far better than the blank in the Olympics.

The form of the Indians during the run-up to the Berlin Worlds only suggests another mediocre performance; not because our athletes are not going to try but because they are so detached from world levels.

Anju George stated at the beginning of the season that she would not be aiming for participation in the World Championships. She did not have a qualification norm and she was yet to completely recover from a foot injury that proved to be the cause of a huge disappointment in the Beijing Olympics.

The focus from then on was on the women’s 4x400m relay team. With most of the established quarter-milers in very poor form at the beginning of the season, the relative newcomers like K. Mridula, Jauna Murmu and Priyanka Panwar came into the reckoning, along with P. T. Usha’s trainee, Tintu Luka.

Eventually the Selection Committee decided to drop the relay team since no one was even below 54.0 seconds. The best among the Indians happened to be a 54.42s, clocked by Priyanka Panwar in Pune in January, followed by a 54.81s by Tintu Luka in Coimbatore in May. Mandeep Kaur, who had a 51.74s last year, improved her wretched form early season with a 54.99s in Loughborough, England, at the end of July, but failed to get the approval of the selectors for the individual 400 metres.

Among those who were not seriously considered though they had achieved the qualification norms last year were triple jumper Amarjeet Singh and javelin thrower Anil Kumar Singh.

Amidst the all-round slump, a few athletes showed consistency. Joseph Abraham, the 400m hurdler, was one of them; though towards the end of July he too showed signs of decline. He had clocked a National record of 49.51s while making the semifinals of the last World Championships in Osaka. That was the best performance by an Indian athlete in the 13-member team of 2007. He is 42nd in the current season list with his 49.59s clocked in Chennai.

Surendra Kumar Singh’s National record of 28:02.89 at Vigo, Spain, last year carried him to the World Championships for the 10,000 metres. The Armyman had an impressive 13:40.45 for the 5000 metres at Kunshan, China, in one of the Asian Grand Prix meets that showed his current form. He puts in his best at big meets and should not disappoint this time, too.

Babubhai Panocha had missed the bus to Beijing last year. His persistence paid off when he qualified by clocking a National record of 1:24.05 for the 20km walk at Bydgoszcz in the Polish National Championships. He might have already done harm to his chances of figuring at a respectable place in Berlin by competing just a fortnight before his event.

The woman discus throwers, Krishna Poonia and Seema Antil, have shown steady improvement through the season, but there have been a few alarming swings, especially in the case of the former, that it would be futile to contemplate their chances of making the final in Berlin. Poonia crossed 60 metres for the first time in the season with a 60.78m (34th in the season lists) in London in August while Antil had a 59.28m (46th) in Loughborough after having struggled to touch 57 metres through the season.

The selection of heptathlete Susmita Singha Roy despite an unimpressive 5366 points for the season was mainly to mollify her for her disappointments of 2006 when she was unfairly dropped from the team to the Doha Asian Games and that of 2007 when she was overlooked for the Osaka Worlds. Twenty-nine women had crossed 6000 points this season, going into the World Championships.

K. P. Mohan



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