Rajasthan Kheta Ram virtually earned a ticket for Incheon Asian Games as he won the men’s 5000m race with a meet record on the opening day of the 18th Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships in Patiala on Saturday.
Kheta Ram clocked a creditable 13:49.17 to win the race and eclipse the seven-year-old meet mark of 13:51.64 in the name of Surender Singh.
ONGC runner Suresh Kumar (13:53.58) and Tamil Nadu’s G. Lakshmanan (13:57.07) took the next two places while defending champion Nitender Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) ended up in eighth place with a timing of 14:50.02.
Inter-State Meet champion Inderjit Patel missed a podium finish as he was fourth with 14:22.99. Incidentally both Kheta Ram and Suresh Kumar bettered the qualifying norm (13:54.11) fixed by Athletics Federation of India for selection guidelines for the Asian Games.
O P Jaisha of Punjab defended her 5,000m title clocking a noteworthy 15:54.21, the fastest time by an Indian woman this year and a tremendous improvement from her last year’s winning mark of 16:39.43.
National record-holder Preeja Sreedharan (Kerala) finished second with 16:23.07 while the bronze medal went to Maharashtra’s Swati Gadhave (16:46.46).
National record-holder Tintu Luka wanted to preserve herself for the IAAF Continental Cup in Moracco next month as one of the four Indians in the Asia-Pacific team and hence skipped the qualifying round race in women’s 800m.
Pramila Yadav from Uttar Pradesh was the fastest (2:22.49) qualifier while Sini A Markose (2:22.81) and inter-state meet champion Sushma Devi (2:25.49) won the other two heats. Lauka’s Kerala teammate and training partner Jessy Joseph could not finish her race.
Long jumper Kumaravel Prem Kumar, who fared badly in the Lucknow inter-state championships by failing to enter the finals, made it this time by leading the qualifiers with a leap of 7.42m.
Other notable qualifiers from the morning session was Om Prakash Singh (shot put, 18.21m), just ahead of Universiade silver medalist Inderjeet Singh (18.10m).
The women’s 400m hurdles heats witnessed two athletes from Karnataka gearing up for a summit clash in the finals as M Arpitha clocked a personal best 58.87 secs ahead of much experienced Anu Raghavan of Kerala (59.14) while reigning Asian Games champion Ashwini Akkunji ran a faster 58.45 secs to win her heat.
Ashwini had won the title in Inter-State Meet with a time of 57.43 secs and holding a personal best 56.15s clocked in Guangzhou Asiad, four years ago.
In the evening session, namesakes Manpreet Kaur clinched the first two spots in women’s shot put by heaving the 4kg iron ball to 16.20m and 15.06m respectively while their state-meet Navjeet Kaur Dhillon, representing ONGC, won the bronze with a 14.16m toss.
Interestingly the winner Manpreet’s mark was the third best in the Federation Cup history after her predecessors Harbans (16.94m) and Harpreet (16.22m) Kaur’s effort in 1997.
A power-failure halted the evening’s proceedings for about 10 minutes.
Afterwards Kundan Singh (Indian Air Force) scaled a new meet record height in pole vault by clearing 5.05m.
Among the women, hammer thrower Manju Bala regained her title with another meet mark of 62.15m. She won the event here in 2012 but lost it to Gunjan Singh last year.
Meanwhile, Olympian high jumper Sahana Kumari completed a ‘hat-trick’ with an effort of 1.80m — her fifth title in Federation Cup.