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Since 1st March, 1999
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No challenge for Kluft
- Painful exit for Radcliffe; Brave Sobha finishes 11th

Athens: J.J. Sobha’s “courage” is the talk in the Indian contingent now, following days of disgrace on the athletics field. Late Saturday evening she completed the 800m, the last heptathlon event braving a torn ligament near her knee and finished third in heat 3 at 2:17.28, to garner 861 points. That allowed her to finish at 11th spot overall, with a very creditable 6172.

India’s other heptathlete, Bengal’s Soma Biswas, finished her 800m heat at top spot (2:12.27) for 932 points, but was 24th overall, with 5965 points which, incidentally, is less than her qualifying mark of 6050. For Soma, these Games have been a poor show.

Sobha, who hurt herself while going into the second javelin attempt Saturday, was advised not to go into the final run of the event, but according to an official, “she was brave enough to ignore her obvious discomfort and run the 800m stretch.

She was surely in a lot of pain, but she completed her job, no less. She is resting now.”

The heptathlon, as expected was won by Carolina Kluft of Sweden, with 6952 points which isn’t anywhere near world standards (the world and Olympic records still belonging to Jackie Joyner Kersee of the US stands at 7,291 points), but it was her season’s best.

The upset of Saturday, of course, was in the women’s 100m. Superstars fell by the wayside and the title of the world’s fastest woman went to Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus (as reported in the Late City edition Sunday) at 10.93, a rather low-grade performance with world and Olympic records (10.49 and 10.62, respectively, by Florence Griffith Joyner in 1988) staying way out of reach.

The US’ Lauryn Williams was silver winner at 10.96 and Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell won bronze at 10.97. Star Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas was seventh at 11.16.

Nesterenko said she and her team had “changed many things,” to achieve such progress this year. “I was training in a different way and tried some new things and I was preparing all the year with the Olympic Games on my mind. That helped me.”

She said she had “added a lot of weightlifting”, but refused to divulge any further detail of her training schedule.

She said she was “sorry” that she wasn’t able to compete with the likes of Ekaterina Thanou of Greece (taken off by the host authorities when she was found positive), “but what can I say.”

US silver medallist Williams said her performance was actually “better than I imagined. I achieved something I expected.”

She said her mind was telling her to “run for your life,” and that what she did.

The women’s 200m heats are Monday and Bengal’s other athlete, Saraswati Saha is readying to take part. She arrived late, but says she has “prepared well” and expects a “good result.”

Considering the overall performance of Indian athletes here, though, it’s better to keep one’s fingers crossed on such predictions.

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