Their first appearance at home in 2019 was disappointing, to say the least. After all, a whole bunch of 400m runners had spent many a week in Turkey, focusing on training for the big season ahead, ostensibly away from distraction. It was natural that this bunch drew more attention than any other athletes in the Indian Grand Prix 2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Arokia Rajiv clocked 46.49 seconds to be the fastest in the three men’s races. In the nine-woman event, MR Poovamma broke the beam in 54.12 seconds, a far cry from the sub-53 and sub-52 times that she has produced with in the past few years. That these were the best of the lot is a commentary in itself.
None of the runners on view came close to the qualifying mark for the Asian Athletics Championships – 45.85 seconds for men and 52.75 seconds for women. With big guns like Muhammad Anas Yahiya, Hima Das and Jisna Mathew staying away from the event in Delhi. it was left to the seasoned Arokia Rajiv and MR Poovamma to try and speed things up.
Even granting that it was only their first run of the season and they were easing into competitive mode, the quarter-milers who had trained for several weeks in Turkey were rather under-cooked. The Athletics Federation of India officials would have been among the most disappointed, having pinned their faith in a lot that was sent to Turkey at some cost.
Had it not been for Odisha’s Dutee Chand who made light of an utter lack of competition and met the 23.30 seconds’ qualifying standard for the Asian Athletics Championship to be held in Doha from April 21, the day would have been one of complete disappointment for the handful of track and field fans who turned up on a chilly afternoon.
Nisar Ahmed, who was disqualified during the National Youth Athletics Championship in Raipur earlier this month, was allowed to compete in the Grand Prix pending a decision by the Athletics Federation of India to impose a two-year sanction on scores of such athletes as envisaged by the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011.
He was the fastest sprinter of the day, clocking 22.05 seconds in race A, throwing down the gauntlet to Madhya Pradesh’s Emmanuel Paul and Delhi lad Abhinav Panwar. They ran a fast race B but could not spur one another to slip past Nisar Ahmed’s time. It defied understanding why two races were run when only eight sprinters reported to the call room.
With Jinson Johnson’s not putting in an appearance after filing his entry and Manjit Singh not entering the meet, Uttar Pradesh metric miler Ajay Kumar Saroj strove manfully to meet the Asian Championship qualifying standard of 3:46.00 but finished one-tenth of a second outside that mark. His State-mate Rahul tried to pace him but that was not enough.
At some point of time, AFI will have to consider introducing minimum standards for athletes to be eligible to compete in such meets. Else, it will be left with a situation where it hands out medals and certificates to athletes who manage 13.20m in men’s shot put and 25.19m in women’s discus throw as it did on Wednesday.
200m: 1. Nisar Ahmed (Delhi) 22.05 seconds; 2. Emmanuel Paul (Madhya Pradesh) 22.37; 3. Abhinav Panwar (Delhi) 22.51.
400m: 1. Arokia Rajiv (Tamil Nadu) 46.49 seconds; 2. KS Jeevan (Karnataka) 47.02; 3. Kunhu Muhammed (Kerala) 47.19.
1500m: 1. Ajay Kumar Saroj (Uttar Pradesh) 3:46.10; Rahul 3:48.15 (Uttar Pradesh); 3. Ankit (Haryana) 3:49.90.
400m hurdles: 1. Dharun Ayyasamy (Tamil Nadu) 49.94 seconds; 2. Santhosh Kumar (Tamil Nadu) 50.77; 3. M Ramachandran (Tamil Nadu) 50.83.
Triple jump: 1. SN Mohammed Salahuddin (Tamil Nadu) 15.80m; 2. Jay Shah (Maharashtra) 15.44; 3. Praveen Chithravel (Tamil Nadu) 15.40.
Shot put: 1. Parveen (Haryana) 17.37m; 3. Sahib Singh (Delhi) 16.53; 3. G Venkatesh Naidu (Andhra Pradesh) 13.20.
Discus throw: 1. S Mithravarun (Tamil Nadu) 52.62m; 2. Arvind Rathee (Haryana) 48.98m; 3. Surjeet Gurra (Delhi) 47.62,
Javelin throw: 1. Abhishek Singh (Uttar Pradesh) 78.24m; 2. Abhishek Drall (Delhi) 75.19; 3. Yashvir Singh (Rajasthan) 67.95.
200m: 1. Dutee Chand (Odisha) 23.30 seconds; 2. Anjali Devi (Haryana) 24.15; Supriya Maddali (Andhra Pradesh) 24. 48.
400m: 1. MR Poovamma (Karnataka) 54.12 seconds; 2. Saritaben Gayakwad (Gujarat) 54.61; 3. Prachi (Uttar Pradesh) 54.74.
1500m: 1. PU Chithra (Kerala) 4:20:76; 2. Lili Das (West Bengal) 4:20.89; 3. Usha Sati (Delhi) 5:08.07.
Shot put: 1. Kachnar Chaudhary (Rajasthan) 14.41m; 2. Anamika Das (West Bengal) 13.75; 3. Sonal Goyal (Delhi) 13.28,
Discus throw: 1. Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (Punjab) 54.92m; 2. Nidhi Rani (Haryana) 45.95; 3. Surgyan Choudhary (Rajasthan) 25.19.
Javelin throw: 1. Kumari Sharmila (Haryana) 50.94m; 2. Rupinder Kaur (Punjab) 48.62.
Triple jump: 1. Renu (Haryana) 12.76m; 2. Sheena (Kerala) 12.45; 3. Sonam (Uttar Pradesh) 12.34.
This report first appeared in Mail Today on February 28