Guwahati/Morigaon, Feb. 13: After four days of exhilarating action in Guwahati, the 33rd National Games today expanded to a second location — the erstwhile “hyacinth-filled pond in the back of beyond” that has since become a canoeing and kayaking venue of “international standards”.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi promised more as the events got under way in the now picture-perfect Charon Beel in Morigaon, only 78 km from the capital city but lagging behind many more miles in terms of development. “We will make this an international venue.”
Several thousand people gathered on the banks of the beel, Assamese for lake, to watch the teams compete. The topic of discussion was the sleek fibreglass vessels being used in the competition — a far cry from the wooden boats that come in handy when floods wreak havoc in Morigaon every monsoon.
At least one person in the crowd, 90-year-old Sarat Bordoloi, was amused by the sight of the “tiny boats these boys are paddling”.
“Yes, they are good. But they will not be able to steer our big boats,” he said.
Seventeen states will vie for 24 medals at Charon Beel.
In Guwahati, it was another day of records inside the athletics stadium and an accident just outside it. A schoolbus knocked down a spectator who was coming out of the stadium, killing him instantly. The 40-year-old victim, Taleb Ali, was on a scooter along with his niece Jamila Ahmed. He was a resident of Hatigaon.
A bus carrying the Services Sports Control Board rowing team had careened off the road, hit a divider and turned on its side near the Games Village only two days earlier. As many as 16 members of the contingent were injured in that accident.
Assam’s medal tally swelled with a gold medal in the gruelling 20-km walk for women, two in gymnastics, one each in canoeing and kayaking and two in taekwondo. However, the day’s haul was not enough for the host state to come anywhere near sports powerhouse Manipur, the leader in the medal chart.
L. Deepmala’s gold in the 20-km walk was the second in athletics for Assam after Paragjyoti Baishya won gold in the men’s javelin throw yesterday. She clocked 1.41:7.2, bettering Ravina Antil’s timing of 1.49:51 in the 2001 National Games.
Gymnasts representing Assam shone, too. Tumpa Debnath, who had won the state’s first ever medal in a major gymnastics championship yesterday, today graduated from bronze to gold in another event. Alok Ranjan brought home the second gold in gymnastics.
The gold medals in taekwondo came through Paban Saikia and Meera Chettri.
Yet another National Games record sank in the pool when the Karnataka men’s team won the 2x200 metres freestyle relay.
There was a heavy rush to get into the aquatics venue, which has seen several records tumble since the first day of competition.