Jithin Paul of Jharkhand stole the limelight, beating 2010 Asiad gold medallist Joseph Abraham to second place in a close 400m hurdles race for men while earning a ticket for the Incheon Asian Games on day 2 of the 18th Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships in Patiala on Sunday.
The day saw two national record holders biting the dust. Under hot and humid conditions at the National Institute of Sports tracks here, all the three podium finishers in men’s 400m hurdles crossed qualifying timings of 51.34 secs set by the Athletics Federation of India for taking part in next month’s Asian Games.
The selection committee of the AFI can pick two out of the three 400m hurdlers for the Asian Games.
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“A country can send a maximum of two athletes in an event in the Asian Games. Sending two athletes in the Asian Games in men’s 400m hurdles is a distinct possibility though the selection committee will decide on it,” AFI secretary C K Valson told PTI.
The Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships is also the selection trials for Asiad.
National record holder in men’s long jump, Prem Kumar finished a disappointing 11th in a 12-men field in the final round. Ankit Sharma of Madhya Pradesh bagged the gold with a jump of 7.55m, a tad below the Asian Games qualifying standard of 7.63m.
Vigneshwar of Tamil Nadu was second with an effort of 7.39m while Silambarasan, also of Tamil Nadu, was third with 7.36m. Prem Kumar, who set the national record of 8.09m last year, had a 7.42m jump in the qualifying round yesterday but he had a best effort of 6.82m. He had two foul jumps out of six and his Asiad dream is over.
In men’s shot put, national record holder Om Prakash Karhana’s recent struggle continued as he was beaten to second place by Inderjeet Singh of Haryana who won gold with a new meet record throw of 19.89m to earn a ticket to the Games. Karhana of ONGC threw the iron ball to 18.89m to bag silver while Jasdeep Singh, also of ONGC, was third with an effort of 18.84m.
The second meet record of the day went to Sajeesh Joseph of Kerala who won the men’s 800m race in 1:46.81, bettering Ghamanda Ram’s 1:47.74 in 2006. Joseph missed the qualifying mark of 1:46.48 by a whisker.
Manjeet Singh of ONGC bagged the silver in 1:48.48 while Jinson Johnson of Kerala was third in 1:50.74.
The best race of the day was, however, the men’s 400m hurdles. 31-year-old Abraham, who could be taking part in his last Asian Games if selected, was ahead at the final bend but his younger and taller opponent Paul overtook him at the final stretch to run away with the gold medal.
“It was very tough conditions as it’s humid today but I am satisfied that I could win the race with a very good timing,” said Paul, who has a personal best of 50.41m.
“Abraham gave me a tough fight and this is the third time I have beaten him. I have beaten him in 2012, in the National Inter-State in Lucknow in June. I am happy that I could beat him as he is top athlete, gold winner in 2010 (Asian Games),” he said.
Asked about the Asian Games, he said, “I could not qualify for the Commonwealth Games as the qualifying standard (49.20) was very tough. My aim is to at least win a medal in the Asian Games.
“But I am still not sure whether I will be selected. The AFI said three of us are of same level and the selection committee will decide on who will run in Asian Games,” he said.
In the women’s 400m hurdles, another gold medallist in 2010 Asian Games, Ashwini Akkunji won the yellow metal with a timing of 57.96secs, which is outside the qualifying standard of 56.88secs.
Akkunji, who served a two-year suspension due to a doping offence till last year, led from the start till the last though she was a tad slower than her National Inter-State timing of 57.43secs.
Jyoti Sankar Debnath of Manipur emerged as the surprise fastest athlete of the championships by winning the men’s 100m sprint in 10.50secs. Krishnakumar Rane was second in 10.62secs while Amiya Kumar of Odisha was third in 10.65secs.
No Indian 100m runner is expected to be picked for the Asian Games but what surprised many was that a track and field athlete representing Manipur, not known to produce champion runners, won a gold in the shortest dash.
Debnath, a runner from Tripura and armyman based in Hyderabad, later said that he could not represent his state despite repeated requests while Manipur readily agreed.
“I have been taking part in national events in the last six years for Services and won a bronze in 2006 National Open in 100m. I wanted to represent Tripura but even after my repeated requests there was no response. So I approached Manipur which readily agreed,” he said.
Saradha Narayan won the women’s 100m dash in 11.72secs while Srabani Nanda (11.86secs) and Asha Roy (11.92secs) were second and third respectively.
Sushma Devi won the women’s 800m race in a disappointing timing of 2:11.76. National record holder Tintu Luka had skipped the race to preserve herself for the IAAF Intercontinental Cup to be held in Morocco next month.
In the morning session, Rani Yadav of Uttar Pradesh won the women’s 20km Race Walk in 1:42:24.00. National record holder Khushbir Kaur also skipped the Championships having already crossed the qualifying mark.
The AFI said that it was not compulsory for all the athletes to take part in the Federation Cup Senior National Championship to get selected for the Asian Games and some, including United States based discus thrower Vikas Gowda, have been exempted from taking part in the meet.
Meanwhile, Rajinder Singh won gold medal in men’s javelin throw with a new meet record of 79.32m while in women’s long jump, M A Prajusha won the gold medal with an effort of 6.23m.
Mayookha Johny finished fourth with a jump of 2.08m.