A couple of months ago Muhammed Hafseer had to swallow his pride and borrow Rs 6,000 to buy a pair of running spikes. The 18-year-old decathlete never had the luxury of competing or training in proper gear, so when he saw the ‘50%’ off deal on an online shopping website, he decided to order it through a friend as he hafd no money. On Friday, at the University Stadium here, the junior athlete totalled 6675 points, a personal best, to win bronze in only his second senior meet.
The winner of the men’s decathlon was Karnataka’s Abhishek N Shetty, 22, while Kerala’s Raneesh VV – the bronze-medallist at the Ranchi Games — took silver. But given the odds which Hafseer had to overcome, his third place was as good as gold.
Hafseer hails from a fishing community in Tanur, Mallapuram district of Kerala. It was after he won gold at the Junior Nationals held in Vijayawada earlier this year that a political outfit funded the construction of a brick house for him and his family. His early years were a struggle. He was the eldest of five children from a broken family, his father left home never to return. Hafseer considers it fortunate that he could go to a government school where he fell in love with athletics, namely pole-vault.
“This is my personal best and I am really happy I could win a medal at the senior level. Athletics has given me a lot of joy and seeing me compete my brothers have also started training. This is a big day for me. My mother and the rest of my family are here to watch me stand on the podium and collect the bronze,” Hafseer said. The prize money which Hafseer will receive – the Kerala government is handing out Rs 2 lakh for a bronze – comes as a relief. “I can return the money I borrowed from my friend,” Hafseer says.
It was only two years ago that he took to decathlon after being selected during a trial at the Lakshmibhai National College for Physical Education in Thiruvananthapuram. Coach NV Nishad Kumar decided to train him after realising that Hafseer possessed ‘speed’ which was rather unmatched by others of his age.
“I had stuck my neck out and picked Hafseer, but at that point he was a pole-vaulter. Realising that he had all-round potential, I advised him to focus on octathalon. After that the natural progression was to decathlon,” Nishad says.
Hafseer says he owes his progress to his coach. “He has guided me and trained me. He made me believe that I had the potential to win a medal at the senior national level. I am a village boy and only started dreaming big after I won gold at the junior nationals. My greatest joy is to see that I have been able to inspire others boys in my village to take up athletics,” Hafseer says.
Ankit crosses 8m-mark
In the men’s long jump, Ankit Sharma became only the fifth Indian male long jumper to cross the eight-metre mark when he touched a distance of 8.04 in his fourth jump to win the gold. Current national record holder Premkumar Kumaravel finished second with 7.68m. Ankit joined an elite club comprising TC Yohanan, Sanjay Kumar Rai, Amritpal Singh and Premkumar. Ankit broke the 21-year-old meet record that stood in the name of Shyam Kumar.
Dutee in 100m final
Orissa’s Dutee Chand clocked the second-fastest time (11.75) in the women’s 100 metres semifinals, behind Maharashtra’s Rashmi Sheregar, who stopped the clock at 11.70, to qualify for Wednesday’s final. Dutee had tested for hyper-andgrogenism and was barred from taking part in the female category before being allowed to compete following ‘provisional relief’ from the Court of Arbitration of Sport. This is her first senior event since the sanction was temporarily lifted in December last year.
Gold for Inderjeet
Shot putter Inderjeet Singh, the bronze-medalist at the Incheon Asian Games, recorded his personal best with a throw of 20.14 metres, which also erased the previous meet record of Bahadur Singh set in 2001. “I know I can win an Olympic medal if I have the support of sponsors. But I don’t even have a job at the moment. Even after the Incheon bronze I did not get a job. Hopefully, seeing my consistency I will get more support,” Inderjeet says.
The men’s shot put event at the National Games was delayed by 90 minutes after the throwing circle was found to be not to the satisfaction of the athletes. The throwers were also not happy with the diameter of the iron ball, which was only 125 millimetres. “The athletes wanted the iron to be upwards of 128mm. The equipment procured for the National Games was a little less in diameter so we had to transport bigger ones from the SAI centre. The diameter ranges from 110mm to 130mm and our athletes are used to training and throwing with the iron ball that his around 128mm,” CK Valson, Athletics Federation of India secretary, said.