Small-town talent gives Indian athletics a high in 2010

Last Updated: Monday, December 27, 2010 - 13:16

New Delhi: New stars emerged on the horizon
as Indian track and field athletes brought unprecedented
success to the country with impressive performances in the
Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in a record-breaking 2010.

The year saw Indian athletes bagging a record 12 medals,
including two gold, in the Commonwealth Games here while five
of the 14 yellow medals at the Asian Games were bagged by
country`s athletes in Guangzhou.

Krishna Poonia entered her name into India`s athletics
folklore by becoming the first woman to win an individual gold
in the Commonwealth Games which was further made memorable
when the country swept the shot-put event by bagging all the
medals.

India`s 12 medals in CWG`s athletics competition were two
more than the number it won in all the earlier editions.

One month later in Guangzhou, the athletes bagged five
gold, two silver and five bronze with new track sensation
Ashwini Akkunji and Joseph Abraham clinching a rare gold
double by winning men`s and women`s 400m hurdles in the
Asian Games.

Ashwini, born in an agricultural family in a nondescript
village of Siddapura in Karnataka, came out of nowhere to win
two gold (another in 400m relay race). She had switched to
400m hurdles only in May this year as her coaches thought her
long strides would suit hurdles.

Another athlete from rural Kerala, Preeja Sreedharan won
a gold in 10,000m and a silver in 5,000m in Guangzhou. She
lost her father when she was very young and her mother and
brother worked as domestic help and carpenter respectively to
run the family of four.

Rae Bareily girl Sudha Singh, who won a gold in women`s
3,000m steeplechase in the Asian Games, also had to struggle
for want of financial support in her early career.

After bringing laurels for the country, she also had to
face the humiliation of being snubbed by the sports minister
of Uttar Pradesh at a marathon race flag-off ceremony in
Lucknow.

Commonwealth Games, in fact, was also all about athletes
from modest backgrounds stealing the limelight.

Kavita Raut, who hails from a little known Sabpadda
village in Nashik district of Maharashtra, won a surprise
bronze in 10,000m race and later said that she took to
athletics as she could do it with barefoot.

A farmer`s son from a village near Patiala in Punjab,
Harminder Singh surprised everybody by bagging a bronze in
men`s 20km walk race. Another athlete from a poor family in
Kerala, M A Prajusha, who even struggled to buy running shoes
with spikes, won a silver in women`s long jump.

India entered their highest number of athletes -- 110 --
in the CWG but it was Poonia who created history by breaking
India`s 52-year-old Games gold medal jinx by winning the
yellow metal in women`s discus throw. Harwant Kaur and Seema
Antil bagged silver and bronze respectively.

India had not bagged an athletics gold since `Flying
Sikh` Milkha Singh won men`s 440 yards race in the 1958
edition in Cardiff, Wales.

The 50,000 strong crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
cheered wildly when the women`s 4X400m relay team of Manjeet
Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur added
another gold in a memorable race, beating strong teams likes
Nigeria and England.

Woman long jumper Malliakkal Prajusha was pipped to the
post by Canadian Alice Falaiya who won the event in the last
jump, beating the Indian for gold by three centimeters.
United States-based Vikas Gowda could not produce his
season`s best but fetched a silver for the country. Renjith
Maheswary broke his own triple jump national record by
clearing 17.07m to win bronze before javelin thrower Kashinath
Naik added another bronze.

The men`s quartet of Rahamatulla Molla, Krishnakumar
Rane, Shammer Mon and Mohd Abdul Qureshi won a bronze with a
new national record timing of 38.89secs, the first time to run
sub-38secs.

The women`s 4x100m relay team of Geetha Satti, Srabani
Nanda, P K Priya and H M Jyothi finished third in a photo
finish with a timing of 45.25secs, just one-hundredth of a
second behind second-placed Ghana (45.24secs).

Tintu Luka, the protege of the legendary P T Usha,
however, disappointed by finishing sixth in 2:01.25, well
below her personal and season`s best of 1:59.17. She won a
bronze in the Asian Games.

In the Asian Games, India won five gold, two silver and
four bronze medals, one of the best performances ever though
below the 2002 Busan tally of 7-6-5 (17).

The women`s 4x400m relay quartet of Manjeet Kaur, Sini
Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur defended the gold they
had won in 2006 Asian Games in Doha.

Kavita Raut, who won a bronze in the 10,000m race in the
CWG, bagged two bronze -- one each in 5,000 and 10,000m.
Krishna Poonia bagged a bronze in discus throw while G Pramila
was also among the medals with a bronze in heptathlon.

Triple jumper Renjith Maheswary was leading the field
till three competitors got past him in the final attempt.

The Indian men`s 4x100m relay squad of Mohamed Abdul
Najeeb, Shameer Mon, M Rahamatulla and Suresh Sathya missed
the bronze by 1/100th of a second and ended fourth in photo
finish behind Thailand.

That luckily saved the country from dope shame as NADA
had informed the Athletics Federation of India that Sathya
Suresh`s urine sample, taken just before the Asian Games, was
found positive for nandrolone.

In fact, amid the inspiring stories of athletes from
modest backgrounds bringing laurels to the country, the year
had its share of low points.

Drug cheats once again tarnished the image of the country
with dope flunks.

20km race walker Rani Yadav flunked a dope test for a
banned steroid in the Commonwealth Games though she finished
sixth while 200m and 4x100m relay runner Sathya Suresh tested
positive for nandrolone in the NADA test.

AFI and Sathya later claimed that they came to know of
the dope flunk only after the Asian Games but had the relay
team finished at the podium, the athletes would have been
tested in Guangzhou and the country could have faced a dope
shame.

PTI



First Published: Monday, December 27, 2010 - 13:16

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