Bangalore: Asian Games Gold medallist Preeja Sreedharan stole the show by running away with the women`s 10,000m gold as National Inter-State Athletics Championships kicked off with some top-class contest on display on Saturday.
In the first of the two anticipated contests of the day, national record holder Preeja of Kerala clocked 34:33.48 ahead of training partner Maharashtra girl Kavita Raut, who was slower by 0.16 secs. Tamil Nadu`s Surya Loganathan was distant third in 35:27.18.
Preeja and Kavita had finished one-two in 10,000m in the Asian Games last November while the latter had also bagged a bronze in the Commonwealth Games.
In the other important clash of the day, Mayookha Johny leapt an impressive 6.63m to win long jump gold beating her Kerala state-mate M A Prajusha (6.47m) to the second place and bettering the meet record by 10cm. Delhi`s Shalu Chaudhry took the bronze in 6.24m.
Mayookha`s effort was just a centimeter less than his personal best of 6.64m which she had recorded while winning last year`s Asian All-Stars Athletics Meet in New Delhi. She also narrowly missed the World Championships and 2012 London Olympics qualifying `B` norm of 6.65m.
She opened her campaign with a 6.63m opening jump, that bettered Anju Bobby George`s five year old meet mark by 10 cm, and that fetch her the gold.
"I feel very good. I wanted to forget the bitter memories of not winning a major medal last season," Mayookha, who last month became the first Indian woman triple jumper to cross the 14m mark, said after the event. She was sixth at the
Commonwealth Games and seventh in the Asian Games last year.
It was the second time she missed the World Championships qualifying mark in long jump but she is optimistic about touching it at the Asian championship in Kobe next month.
Tamil Nadu got its first gold of the day through javelin thrower S Saraswathy by outclassing fancied Suman Devi. Saraswathy sent the spear to 52m while Suman`s best of the day measured to 48.95m.
With the country`s top discus thrower Vikas Gowda busy at an elite meet in the United States, young Delhi boy Arjun won the gold with a modest 53.56m.
Rajasthan`s Manju Bala had the top honours in women`s hammer throw with an effort of 55.94m. Kerala thrower Anitha Abraham won silver with 54.88m.