Federation Cup: Niraj lights up field, Hima scorches track
Patiala, Mar 6 (PTI): Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra lived up to the expectations with career's second-best effort while Assam teenager Hima Das blazed the track to earn a Commonwealth Games ticket in the women's 400m on the second day of the 22nd Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships here today.
Neeraj, the favourite and the star attraction of the championships, sent the iron spear to a distance of 85.94m in his final attempt send the sizeable crowd at the NIS Patiala to raptures.
His performance today was his best after his 86.48m throw -- the current world junior record -- which was achieved in Poland in 2016 while winning gold in the Junior World Championships. This was also the best ever throw recorded on Indian soil.
"Although I had already qualified for the CWG, I wanted to make a mark at the Federation Cup. That is why I was trying so hard. I will look to improve on this at the Commonwealth Games, Neeraj said later.
Neeraj's performance is the best of the season among javelin throwers of the Commonwealth countries and he is a bright prospect for a medal in the April 4-15 Gold Coast Games. Before today, Hamish Peacock of Australia was leading the chart of Commonwealth javelin throwers with 83.63m.
Amit Kumar (79.16m) and Shivpal Singh (78.13m) were distant second and third respectively. The 20-year-old Haryana athlete had already crossed the Athletics Federation of India's qualifying guidelines (81.80m) in an earlier round throw but he still completed his quota of six throws as he wanted to come up with a big throw.
Neeraj did that in style in his final attempt as legendary Uwe Hohn, the only javelin thrower in history to cross 100m, watching from the sidelines.
While Neeraj was the cynosure of eyes of the days proceedings, it was the 18-year-old Hima, who stunned one and all with her performance in her debut 400m race.
Das clocked 51.97seconds to go past the AFI qualification mark of 52.00secs. GK Vijayakumari was second in 53.03 while MR Poovama was third in 53.38s.
Das is primarily a 100m and 200m runner and this was her first competitive 400m race of her career. She had won a gold at the recent Asian Games Test event in Jakarta in 200m.
"I was expecting to do around 52 seconds. So when I saw that I was able to go inside 52 seconds, I was very happy. I was not sure how I would run the 400m but I was able to run without any difficulty, said the girl from Nagaon district of Assam.
Shot putter Tejinder Pal Toor was the third athlete to surpass the AFIs qualifying guidelines. Toor, who won a silver at the Asian Indoor Games in January, needed just one throw to better the AFIs qualifying guideline of 20.20m, by hurling the iron sphere to 20.24m.
For Toor, it was a satisfying return to the ground on which he had thrown a personal best of 20.40m last season. Back then, Toor had been in the race to qualify for the 2017 World Championships but had fallen short by 10 centimetres.
Toor said was not satisfied with his performance. My goal was to throw over 21 meters. I could not do it here but I will try to do it in the Commonwealth Games, he said.
There were other strong performances on the day too, most impressive of which was Kerala long jumper M Sreeshankar, who leaped into the junior record books with a jump of 7.99m to clinch the gold.
The 18-year-old Sreeshankar, however, fell just 1 cm short of the AFI qualifying standard mark of 8.00m set for his event.
Although he fell short of the qualifying guideline of 10.16 seconds, Siva Kumar of Tamil Nadu marked himself as a sprinter to watch out for.
Siva stunned a 100m field that included national record holder Amiya Mallick and Asian Indoor bronze medalist Elakkiya Dasan to win a maiden national gold medal with a time of 10.43 seconds.
Elakkiya Dasan was second with 10.56 seconds while Sanjeet of Haryana was third with a time of 10.59 seconds.
In women's 100m finals, Dutee Chand won the gold in 11.60 seconds while Prajna S (11.81) and Hina (11.83) took the silver and the bronze respectively. Dutee, however, fell well short of the CWG qualifying mark of 11.15 seconds.