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Fariha strikes gold, finally
- Records sink in swimming pools at Games end

Guwahati, Feb. 16: The wait was finally over for the water babeís legion of fans: Fariha won her first gold of the meet in swimming on the concluding day of the National Games today.

Coming as it does after Assamís thumping victory over Bengal in the football semifinal yesterday, Fariha Zamanís gold was worth much more than its weight for the people of the state.

The coveted yellow metal came in the 100-metre backstroke, the timing 1:09.49. Egged on by vociferous fans, the victory was all the more sweet since Richa Mishra, who had won eight gold medals in the pool, came third. Fariha also picked up a bronze in the 50-metre butterfly.

Fariha was one of the main attractions for the hosts, given her feat in the last SAF Games. Archer Jayanta Talukdar, who missed the Games owing to an injury, was supposed to be the other main draw.

Bitten by the Games bug, huge crowds milled at the Sarusajai Stadium on a day Assam came third in the medals tally. But Services nudged out Manipur to top the tally.

This evening, Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi told mediapersons at the main stadium complex that he was very happy to see so many meet records being broken and new stars emerging. He added that he would request Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to enhance the sports budget.

Given the overwhelming response to the Games in the Northeast, he also promised to award more sporting events to Assam and Manipur.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi promised to create a corpus for ensuring maintenance of the newly-created infrastructure. The corporate sector will be involved in funding this. ďI have realised over the past few days that our boys and girls are very talented, more so those from the rural areas. I will do my utmost to sustain this momentum,Ē he said.

The swimming pool was also set ablaze, with four more records being created. Veerdhaval Khade sunk records in the 100-metre freestyle and the 50-metre butterfly. The other records went to Rehan Poncha in 100-metre backstroke and Lekha Kamath in 50-metre butterfly.

A record was also created in weightlifting by Manipurís L. Monika Devi in the 69-kg category.

Hosts Assam today bagged four gold medals in judo: Vinod Solanki (menís half heavyweight 81-90 kg), Rajwinder Kaur (womenís 57-63 kg) and Brojeshori Devi (womenís 52-57 kg) and Tombi Devi (womenís 44-48 kg). Assamís Kalpana Choudhury won the welterweight boxing gold in the 48-kg category. Assam also bagged a gold in karate through Manoj Das in the 55-kg category.

But in menís hockey, Services blanked out hosts Assam 4-0 to set up a title clash with Punjab. Assam play Orissa for third place tomorrow.

Manipurís dominance in sepak takraw continued, winning both men and womenís team event gold, defeating Assam by the identical margin of 2-0 in both finals. Delhi and Nagaland bagged the bronze in the menís and womenís courts respectively.

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