Khushbir Kaur on the way to an Indian national record in the 20km Race Walk at the Federation Cup in Patiala (Anu Kumar) © Copyright
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Race walkers command attention in Patiala

Some notable Race Walking performances were among the chief highlights at the four-day 16th Federation Cup senior athletics championships which concluded on Tuesday (24) at the sprawling Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports grounds in Moti Bagh, Patiala, India.

Being an Olympic year, the main focus of this season's first major championship of India turned out to be on Olympic qualification.

Khushbir Kaur, an 18-year-old student of Khalsa College in Amritsar, shattered the national record in women’s 20 km Race Walk with a time of 1:37:28, a mark also well within the London B-standard.

In the corresponding men’s race Kerala walker K.T. Irfan clocked a noteworthy 1:22:14 to win the event, which is among the A-grade for London. He was adjudged as a best men's athlete of the competition for his performance.

However these athletes need to repeat their feat once again in a pre-designated meet in order to gain a berth for this summer’s Games in the British capital. The Indian federation is likely to field them at the IAAF World Race Walking Cup in Saransk, Russia, next month.

From India, Gurmeet Singh and Baljinder Singh have already attained the A standard for the men’s 20 km walk and one more athlete can join with them on the London-bound team with a similar feat.

Maheswary nails London standard in the Triple Jump

Former Asian champion and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in Delhi 2010, Renjith Maheswary, attained an Olympic berth in the Triple Jump as he landed at 16.85m—the exact distance for the B standard after an injury-marred last season.

The Tamil Nadu jumper, who crashed out in the qualifier during the Worlds at Daegu last year with three invalid jumps, vowed to make amends in London this year.

However, another athlete who was expected to make the cut here, shot putter Saurabh Vij, fared badly and will have to try again in his next opportunity. Vij tossed the iron ball to 19.80m during the National Grand Prix on 8 April, which raised expectations, but managed only 18.42m in the FedCup as he fouled three of his series and could not find the required rhythm to achieve the target.

Siddhanth fastest in hurdles

High hurdler Siddhanth Thingalaya (21) clocked an impressive 13.69 in the 110m Hurdles, the fastest by an Indian on home-soil, to prove that the Patiala track is his lucky one in spite of a strong 2.5m head-wind on the final day of competition. Thingalaya, the former Asian junior silver medallist, set his first national record of 13.81 while winning the Inter-State title here two years ago.

Thingalaya, who has made his training base in Australia since last year, had an unbeaten season so far and recently capped it with a 13.66 national record and victory at the Australian championships in Melbourne on 15 April. He is expected to join the Indian Olympic team after touring with the national squad to Thailand for the Asian Grand Prix series next month.

There were some cases of near misses for others with Olympic ambitions, including Asian Games champion Joseph Abraham in 400m Hurdles (49.98) and half-miler Sajeesh Joseph (1:48.36).

The same was the fate for high jumpers Jithin Thomas (2.20m) and Sahana Kumari (1.88m) who nonetheless registered personal bests in the men's and women's competitions, respectively.

Four women secured double victories: Haryana sprinter Manisha, UP distance runner Archana Pal, Kerala jumper M.A. Prajusha and ONGC’s middle-distance star Sinimole Paulose.

The team from government-owned Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) is an emerging force in Indian athletics in recent years and hence won the overall champion title with nine gold, six silver and five bronze medals, beating defending champions Kerala state to runner-up position (7-7-5).

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

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