Sarita Singh was in a league of her own on the first day of the Federation Cup in Patiala. Just as dusk had fallen, the Uttar Pradesh hammer thrower’s talent shone through on Thursday evening. In the second round, she bettered the three-year-old national mark of 62.74m set by Manju Bala with a throw of 63.58m. But she wasn’t done yet. In her fifth attempt, she hurled the hammer 65.25m.
Gunjan Singh finished second with a throw of 61.95 while Nidhi Kumar took bronze with a throw of 57.99m.
What was commendable about Sarita’s performance on Thursday is the fact that she improved her personal best by nearly three- and-a-half metres – up from 61.81. In an event in which strength is as important as technique, the 28-year-old seems to have got a second wind. Moreover, she didn’t even start off in a ‘power event’.
Sarita has been pursuing athletics since she was young but the iron ball and chain wasn’t her first choice. She started of with jump events, long jump being her favourite, and won umpteen junior-level meets. She was proficient even in sprints but got “fitter” – her definition of improved fitness is adding muscle – and took up the throw events.
She didn’t need to go far in search of training facilities as her school already had the equipment.
The school coach, who knew the basics of hammer throw, took her under his wings. Until 2015, she had to make do with the little she had learnt in school.
She never received formal coaching, she says. Yet she managed to win gold at the 2010 Inter-University Games, which landed her a job as clerk with the Indian railways.
“Mein dusro ko dekh dekh ke sikhee hoon. ( I have learnt by observing others),” Sarita says.
Her previous best of 61.81m came in New Delhi last year. The throw earned her a place in the national camp under coach Shubdeep Singh, who had to work on her technique and fitness to help her breach the 65m mark
“I knew little about the technique when I came here (national camp). Here I learnt a lot about getting optimal results from my throws. I changed my diet and took more care of my fitness,” she says.
Shubdeep showered praise on his ward, saying her dedication is second to none. He feels a couple of exposure trips to countries like Poland will add a few metres to Sarita’s throw.
“She never goes home. I have never seen someone so dedicated. Her husband takes leave to come and visit her. All she needs is little bit of exposure and that she will get only by going abroad,” Shubdeep says.
Sarita is married to former 20km racewalk national camper Romit Singh. Romit’s athletics career has taken a backseat for now. and he is content to devote his complete attention to his wife.
“It was an arranged, love marriage,” coach Shubdeep says.
When Sarita got married, about four years back, she felt it was the end of her athletics career. But she was amazed to find that her in-laws shared the same aspirations as her husband, who is now posted in Gujarat.
“They keep telling me, ‘beti do well for the country’,” she says.
“I had put my heart and soul into this event. I’ll be honest, never before in my life have I prepared so hard for any event. It feels great to have broken the national record,” she adds.
Her 65m throw puts her in medal contention at the Asian level. In the previous edition of the Asian Athletics Championships, Na Luo of China had won the silver with a 64.97m throw. “I am still working on my release. I will improve before the Asian meet.”
Because of the vast improvement Sarita has shown, she will know that every time she participates in an event from hereon, she will be judged by the high standards she set on Thursday.
Siva leaps to new heights
In the pole vault event, which saw as many as 25 participants, S Siva of Tamil Nadu emerged the winner with a leap of 5.14 metres and rewrote the 2012 national record of 5.13 set by Kundan SIngh. Siva tried to better the record by attempting a jump of 5.22 but failed. Anu Raghavan (400m hurdles ) and Manpreet Kaur ( shot put) also broke the meet records in their respective disciplines. Kerala’s Anu, taking part in her pet event, managed to finish in 57.39 seconds to break Shahebani Oram’s 2002 record of 57.60m. Jauna Murmu and M Arpitha finished second and third respectively. Manpreet threw 17.04m to to break Harbans Kaur’s record of 16.94 set in 1997. Ramanpreet of Punjab (4.90m) and Anamika Das of
West Bengal (14.67m) bagged the silver and bronze.
In the 5000m men’s and women’s events brother-sister duo Lakshmanan and L Suriya took the gold. Lakshmanan clocked 14:02.90 seconds to finish ahead of Gujarat’s Murli Kumar Gavit (14:05:04 seconds) and Uttarakhand’s Suresh Kumar (14:06.11 seconds). His national camp training partner Suriya clocked 15:54.78 .