Sujata Nag (top) of Hazaribagh bagged gold in long jump; Shyamal Rathore of Tatisilwai (below) won gold in 10km walkathon; and Neeraj Kumar Roy of Giridih clinched the 200m title on the second day of the junior athletics meet in Hotwar on Sunday. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
Host Jharkhand outdid its all-time gold medal tally on Sunday at the ongoing 25th East Zone Junior Athletics Championship that kicked off on August 17 at the mega sports complex in Hotwar, Ranchi.
On the second day of the tournament, the home team clinched eight gold medals, taking its tally to 20 so far. The number, on Day Two, broke the state’s previous record of 17 gold medals won in 2012 at the Calcutta edition of the east zone championship.
Over 700 athletes from 10 states — Assam, Bengal, Odisha, Manipur, Bihar, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Jharkhand — are taking part in this year’s championship, of which 125 are from the host state.
Right now, Jharkhand is placed at number two in rankings, sandwiched between neighbours Bengal and Odisha.
Bengal, with 87 medals — 39 gold, 22 silver and 26 bronze — is the undisputed champion of the event so far.
Jharkhand, with 50 medals, including 20 gold, 15 silver and 15 bronze, is a creditable second.
Odisha, with 34 medals — five gold, 16 silver and 13 bronze — is a distant third.
“Our athletes are very happy. We have beaten our own previous record of 17 gold medals on the second day itself. We have one more day to prove ourselves,” said Jharkhand Athletics Association (JAA) president Madhukant Pathak.
The three-day championship has 182 track and field events. Forty-two events under various categories were held on the first day; 38 on the second.
Though conceding they might not be able to beat Bengal on Monday, Pathak professed “immense satisfaction” with the performance of the state players in the tournament that is being hosted in Jharkhand for the first time.
The odds off the field are daunting.
The athletics association had presented a budget of Rs 60 lakh for the east zonal and the open national championships before the state sports department, which had agreed to it “in principle” but has not parted with a penny yet.
The athletics association is so far running the east zonal championship “on credit”. The cash-strapped outfit dispensed with an opening ceremony on August 17.
The outfit has pinned its hopes on sports department secretary Vandana Dadel, who on leave now and is expected to be back on August 22.
For players, the niggling worries have stayed.
“Jharkhand players have great potential. But to win consistently, proper grooming, practice venues, coaching, food and government support is needed round the year,” said Sapna Kumari, who clinched gold in 100m hurdles (Under-16) timing 16 seconds.
Will the athletics association get funds from the state?