Coach PT Usha with Tintu Luka (centre) of Railways, who won the 800m gold, and J Joseph of Kerala at Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Hotwar, Ranchi, on Sunday. (Hardeep Singh)
Star act in National Games. Flop show in athletics meet.
Jharkhand, which rode piggyback on borrowed players to be among the top five in the February 2011 sporting extravaganza organised at the world-class complex in Hotwar, Ranchi, is staring at absolute disgrace in the 53rd National Open Athletics Championship just two years down the line.
The host team failed to open an account even on Sunday — the second day of the four-day meet, being held at the same venue in the capital — because its bunch of “untrained” sportspersons were either unable to start or finish their race.
Hopes were reduced to smithereens in the morning, when Jharkhand’s star athlete Deepmala Devi withdrew from the 20km walkathon and was marked DNS (did not start).
State athletics association vice-president S.K. Pandey told The Telegraph that the 20-something had a stomach upset and felt feverish at the last moment.
“She is a star performer. One cannot pressure her. Let us see what happens with the other events,” he added.
|Deepmala Devi, who withdrew from Sunday’s walkathon at the 53rd National Open Athletics Championship in Hotwar,
is felicitated by Jharkhand Athletics Association for her
past achievements. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Deepmala and husband Gurmeet Singh had made the state proud with their golden gait in the 34th National Games. This time, railway employee Gurmeet apparently did not get permission to participate, while his better half is now out of the fray.
On Day One of the athletics championship on Saturday, all Jharkhand players were either adjudged DNS or DNF (did not finish)!
In the 5,000m run for women, Shyamli Singh and Ritu Dhinkar were marked DNS. In 5,000m (men), Amol Dubraj was DNF and Ranjit Kumar Patel was DNS.
In other disciplines, such as 400m hurdles (men and women), 4kg hammer throw (women), pole vault (men) and 4kg shot put (women), the host team did not even qualify the heats. In long jump (women), Sujata Nag graduated to the final, but only to rank 19, lunging across just 5.01m.
On Sunday, 10 medals were at stake and Jharkhand’s chances were slim from the very beginning.
According to sports officials, the host team failed to qualify in four events — shot put (men), high jump (women) and 800m (men and women). Chandan Yadav and Amit Majumder, however, cemented their places in the men’s long jump and javelin finals, respectively. But, while Chandan finished 10th (7.01m), Amit fared a tad better ranking 9th (68.58m).
On the condition of anonymity, a source in Jharkhand Athletics Association said: “The National Games was different because the state was banking on borrowed players. This is a different league. You cannot alter rules to suit your needs because the apex athletics outfit can take you to task (impose a fine).”
He pointed out that with top seeds from across the nation in the fray, keeping nerves steady on track and field was a tricky thing in the first place. “Being marked DNS or DNF is an indication that our players are not mentally strong. But, they cannot be blamed. We have not groomed them into achievers yet,” he said.
Analysing the state’s chances, Jharkhand Athletics Association president Madhukant Pathak conceded that they were not expecting too many medals.
“Top athletes from the country are competing. Watch their body language, see their training schedule, check their diet and lifestyle… our players are lagging for miles. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu invest in sports. They train players round the year and offer the best of facilities. What do we give? We don’t even have a basic set-up. How can we expect great performances in events like this?”
Pathak continued to defend the humiliation of home players on national stage. “In the east zone athletics meet earlier this month, our boys and girls practised for five days and we won half a dozen medals. But for this event, not a single day’s training could be imparted for want of venue,” he said.
In a final attempt to assuage the disappointment that seems to be in store, the senior official added: “One should at least be happy that we are able to organise national events to motivate our athletes. We also hope to draw the attention of government mandarins (central and state sports officials) so that something concrete is done to groom potential talents.”
India’s erstwhile golden girl P.T. Usha, in an interview with The Telegraph a few days ago, had the best piece of advice for Jharkhand though.
Advocating state-level academies for each and every sports discipline, the sprint queen had said: “A magic wand cannot produce winners. You have to catch ’em young and bring out the winner in them through scientific training and due encouragement.”
Do you think Jharkhand can win a medal at this meet?