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Hyderabad, IndiaHeld in its Golden Jubilee Year, the Indian national Inter-State Senior Athletics championships (23-26) at Hyderabad served as the final selection trials for Indian aspirants at home for the Olympic Games in London.
The magnificent G.M.C. Balayogi Stadium, venue for the nationals, was built for the National Games in 2002 and witnessed several international events since including the inaugural Asian Grand Prix athletics series, the Afro-Asian Games and CISM World Military Games among others.
Although only one athlete, high jumper Sahana Kumari attained the Olympic norm, keen contests were witnessed in several events in the four-day meet. The athlete from Karnataka state, cleared 1.92m —the B standard for London— to achieve the honour. By sailing over the height she eclipsed the national and meet record of 1.91m held by Bobby Aloysius of Kerala since 2004. Aloysius was the first woman high jumper from India to take part in the Olympic Games at Athens. Her national record also came when she attempt to qualify for Olympics.
Kumari had a previous best of 1.89m which she achieved during this year’s Asian Grand Prix series in Thailand in May. Sahana, wife of former national sprint champion B.G. Nagaraj, and a mother, cleared 1.92m on her first attempt although she had some struggle at the previous height. She then bowed out at 1.95m.
"The event was delayed for nearly two hours which made things difficult," she said.
"She put in a lot of hard work and I am sure she could go higher in London," her coach, Evgeniy Nikitin, said.
While Sahana become the fourteenth Indian athlete to attain the Olympic qualification, several other top Indians who were training abroad could not make it to Hyderabad. However one of the athletes who has already qualified, half-miler Tintu Luka, did compete and engaged in to a tussle between another fine middle distance runner Sinimole Paulose in the 800m. Paulose entered the fray thinking of achieving a better mark than Tintu to gain a berth on the Indian squad, however on the appointed day she could not match the young Luka as she timed 2:03.71 against 2:01.36.
Paulose thought of trying again in the 1500m on the last day of the meet, but was down with food poisoning and withdraw at the last minute.
Intermediate hurdler Joseph G. Abraham, the reigning Asian Games champion and a World championships semi-finalist in Osaka 2007, failed to accomplish his dream of making it to the London-bound team as he finished second behind defending champion Satinder Singh. Singh clocked a personal best 49.99 secs while Abraham was second in 50.39s. The national record holder with 49.51, Abraham had a season’s best of 49.98s earlier during the FedCup in Patiala. After the race in Hyderabad, the Kerala athlete admitted that he spent all his energy during the previous day’s heats and ran too hard during the early half of the final which caused the problem. He further revealed that he would again target the time during the upcoming Asian All-Stars meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at the end of this month.
Double for Prajusha
M.A. Prajusha, the 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist in the Long Jump, had a 'double’ taking gold in both the long and triple jumps. She didn’t find her rhythm during the long jump to achieve her best, but a rejuvenated Prajusha had a fine Triple Jump series. Her winning mark of 13.66m was just two centimetres shy of the meet mark held by state-mate and Olympic qualifier Mayookha Johny.
Satti Geetha, a member of gold winning Indian 4x400m relay squad at the Asian Games in Doha six years ago, who represented the host state Andhra Pradesh has showed all her might to win the women’s 100m and powered her state to victory in the sprint relay. However her ambition of taking a third gold in the 200m dash did not materialise as the Haryana girl Manisha surged past to win the event. Earlier Manisha was disqualified for a false start in the 100m.
As expected Kerala retained the team championships with a whopping 192 points with runner-up Uttar Pradesh a distant second with 82.
Punjab lad Satinder Singh (400m hurdles) and Kerala star Tintu Luka (800m) emerged as the best male and female athletes of the meet.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF
MEN 100m (23) (-0.5): 1. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi AP 10.59, 2. Kiran Kumar Rane MAH 10.60, 3. Shameer Mon KER 10.62