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Gairik ends Bengal drought
- NATIONAL AQUATICS - Akbar Ali Mir, Shikha Tandon adjudged meet’s best

Calcutta: Gairik Bardhan’s dogged effort marked a sensational end to the 57th senior national aquatic championships at Subhas Sarobar on Monday.

The final event of the day as well as the meet was the men’s 200m breaststroke and the 17-year-old from Bally rose to the occasion to end Bengal’s two decade-long gold-drought among men in the championships.

Gairik’s timing of 2:30.20s was enough to brush aside SSCB’s Aji P in the final 50m length and ensured that a Bengal boy stand atop the podium for the first time since 1984 when Surajit Ghosh had won the gold in 200m butterfly in the Bombay nationals.

Akbar Ali Mir, now a Railways player, however, swam to a record time in claiming 200m butterfly. His timing of 2:08.17 erased K. Suresh Kumar’s eight-year record of 2:08.38. In fact, apart from Gairik’s, all four individual events on Monday were won with a record-setting performance.

Akbar, who got off to a disastrous start in the meet, finishing last in the 50m butterfly, was a transformed man, following his record-breaking 200IM win the other day. He maintained lead throughout the 200m and on the final turn he surged ahead from the rest.

His scintillating show landed him the best swimmer’s award while Shikha Tandon, who added the fourth gold to her kitty by winning the 100m freestyle, was ajudged best among women.

Shikha totalled 886 points, enough to pip Nisha Millet (871) and Richa Mishra to the award. All three women won four golds each.

Karnataka were overall champions with 17 gold, 15 silver and six bronze. Police came second with a 13:12:8 show and SSCB’s 4:6:9 achievement bagged them the third place. Bengal finished fifth with one gold, two silvers and a bronze. Overall 13 records tumbled in the meet — another record in itself.

Meanwhile, in women’s waterpolo, Bengal claimed bronze, beating Maharashtra 5-4 in the third-and-fourth place match. Puspa Banik (2), Prity Gupta (2) and Sadhana Sardar scored for the hosts. Kerala women won the title beating Police 5-4.

Richa missed the Olympics qualification mark by a whisker in the 200m butterfly. In men’s 100m, T.A. Sujith of SSCB bettered Sebastien Xavier’s eight-year-old record of 00:53.65 by 0.14 seconds.

Gairik, Akbar in list

Gairik was the only one from Bengal to be named among probables for the Afro-Asian Games — a qualifying event for the Athens Olympics. Akbar made the cut too.

Results — Men: 200m butterfly — 1. Akbar Ali Mir (RSPB) 2:08.17 (NR); 2. Amar Murlidharan (PSCB) 2:09.57; 3. Arjun Murlidharan (PSCB) 2:10.26. 100m freestyle — 1. T.A. Sujith (SSCB) 53.51 NR; 2. Rahul Batra (Kar) 54.36; 3. Parikshit Shetty (Mah) 55.76. 200m breaststroke — 1. Gairik Bardhan (Ben) 2:30.20; 2. Aji P (SSCB) 2:31.71; 3. Anil Khatri (Har) 2:37.96. Women: 200m butterfly — 1. Richa Mishra (PSCB) 2:19.63 NR; 2. V. Sivaranjani (Kar) 2:31.18; 3. Archana Bhushan (Kar) 2:34.88. 100m freestyle — 1. Shikha Tandon (Kar) 58.91 NR; 2. Reshma Millet (Kar) 1:00.48; 3. Lisa Mahanta (PSCB) 1:03.85. Waterpolo: Men’s final — Services bt Rlys 8-6; 3rd & 4th place — Bengal bt Police 9-3. Women’s final — Kerala bt Police 5-4; 3rd & 4th place — Bengal bt Maharashtra 5-4.

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