Unheralded Shivpal Singh of Uttar Pradesh sprang a surprise with a big throw in the men’s javelin while veteran 3000m steeplechaser Sudha Singh ran her best race in two years as both booked Asian Games berths with gold medal winning efforts on the third day of the 58th National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships, in Guwahati on Thursday. Shivpal cleared 82.28m in his final throw – his personal best – to clinch the gold and better the Asian Games qualification mark of 81m to the surprise of those present at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium. It was a jump of 2.5m from his previous earlier best of 79.77m which he did in 2016.
The 23-year-old from Varanasi is expected to be named in the Indian team for the Asian Games on June 30 along with star athlete Neeraj Chopra who has been exempted from taking part in this meet which serves as the final selection trial to pick the Indian track and field team. Shivpal said he was hurt at being left out of the javelin team that went to Finland last month as part of preparations for the Asian Games.
“I was rejected by the coach (Uwe Hohn) and not taken to Finland. I was hurt. I have thrown above 85m during training but this is my first 80m throw in a competition. The coach said I was not needed (for training in Finland). Today, I have thrown 82 plus and I have proved my point,” he said after his gold-winning performance.
His coach Kashinath Naik said the plus points of Shivpal is his speed and last attack before releasing the spear. Rajender Singh of Haryana took the silver by clearing a distance of 80.63m. For veteran Sudha, who won a gold in 2010 Asian Games in this event, it was a sort of coming back where she belonged as she clocked 9:39.69. She had left Nikolai Snesarev to train under Surender Kumar.
For the last two years, she was struggling with best timing of 9:59.47. She had a best of 9:26.55 in 2016, which still remains her personal best. “I am happy with my performance. My plan was to qualify for the Asian Games and I have achieved it. Training with Surender sir has made this happen. The high altitude training in Bhutan has also helped. For that I thank AFI for sending me there,” Sudha, representing UP, said.
“For two years, I was not doing well and I was not having proper training. Now my target is gold medal in the Asian Games,” she added.
In men’s 3000m steeplechase, Naveen Kumar qualified for the Asian Games by clocking 8:39.42, enough to win the gold. B Chethan of Karnataka was also another surprise winner who also booked an Asian Games berth by clearing 2.25m, the exact qualifying height.
Earlier in the morning session, top Indian quarter-miler Nirmala Shroran clocked an impressive 52.36 seconds in her first competitive race in nearly a year to breach the qualifying mark of the Asian Games in one of the women’s 400m heats. Since the World Championships in London in August last year, Nirmala has not run a competitive race before today and her whereabouts and training place has been a matter of intense speculation. She trains outside the national camp and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) had sad that it did not know her training place.
The Asian Games qualifying time for this event set by AFI is 52.47. “I am feeling good at my timing but I am not still 100 per cent, I just recovered from typhoid,” Nirmala told PTI after the race.
Nirmala, who has a personal best of 51.28, disappeared after the World Championships last year and her whereabouts and training place were not known. Even as the AFI frowned on her, Nirmala resurfaced in the last few months. “I did not do any suspicious thing. Because of personal and family problems, I went into depression after World Championships. There were illness in my family and other personal problems. I wanted to compete at the Commonwealth Games but then I suffered from typhoid,” she said.
“I am now training alone with my coach Vijender at Bhiwani in Haryana. I started training only a month back. There is some time before the Asian Games. I hope to do well in Asian Games.”
The women’s 400m final will be held on Friday. Hima Das, M R Poovamma, Jauna Murmu and Sonia Baishya also qualified for the final while P T Usha’s ward Jisna Mathew fell by the wayside after finishing fourth in her heat.
Odisha’s Dutee Chand also qualified for the Asian Games in women’s 100m dash as she clocked 11.42 in one of the heats. The qualifying time set by the AFI for this event is 11.67. Dutee had qualified for the Asian Games in 200m on Wednesday.