Day 1: Indian team skating trials
The day began at 5:30 in the morning with a Ganesh puja.
The first race of the day was the junior girls’ time trials event. The favourites in the event, based on performances at the national championships held 5 months ago were Musckaan Chauhan of Haryana, an Indian team veteran, Madhulika Joshi of Maharashtra who surprised a lot of people when she won the time trial event at the Nationals and Mouna Babu of Karnataka, a first time participant in the trials who has already proven herself on multiple occasions.
The timings that the girls posted were impressive to say the least, with Musckaan Chauhan predictably securing the first place with a timing of 29.11 seconds, and Mouna Babu coming second with a time of 29.29 seconds, thereby ensuring their place in the Indian Team.
The junior boys’ time trial event was a spectacle to watch. With 27 participants, it was a star studded event. Dhanush Babu of Karnataka stunned the crowd with an incredible time of 25.69 seconds beating Hariharan Kandhaswamy, who clocked 26.06 seconds.
The crowd favourite, Abdul Zaheer Khan of Andhra Pradesh could only manage a time of 26.80 seconds.
The time trial event for the senior women was an anti-climactic one with only 3 women turning up. Aarathy Kasturiraj of Tamil Nadu had an impressive timing of 28.60 seconds, about 30 microseconds off the national record. Varsha S. Puranik of Karnataka, one of the most decorated skaters of India, secured second place with a timing of 29.3 seconds.
The senior men’s event did not go on expected lines. National record holder Nikhilesh Tabhane of Maharashtra, the undisputed favourite ended with a disappointing timing of 26.98 seconds. Akash Aradhya of Karnataka used his home advantage to good effect to win the first place with a time of 25.80 seconds, while Vikram Ingale of Maharashtra came second clocking 26.48 seconds.
The time trial event was followed by 1000 m races. First up were the junior girls. There were 2 heats in which the skater who finished first in each heat would automatically qualify, and the next 6 places on the line at the finals, would be decided based on the timing of each skater.
The first semi-final was the fastest with Musckaan Chauhan emerging victorious. The second semi-final was won by Mouna Babu.
Next up were the junior boys. Due to a large number of participants, the boys were put into 4 quarterfinal slots. The rules were similar to the junior girls’ race, where the first skater from each race would automatically qualify, and the remaining 12 skaters will be selected based on individual timing.
Each quarterfinal turned out to be more impressive than the previous one.
The senior women’s event was up next. With only 3 participants, one felt there would be no excitement. That was until the last lap...
On the last lap, Aarathy Kasturiraj fell. Varsha Puranik tried to avoid her but went crashing onto the side wall. She was badly injured and had to be taken to the hospital.
Barkha Parmar of Gujarat came first with Aarathy managing to finish second.
The next race was the senior men’s final. Vikram Ingale of Maharashtra took first place closely followed by Akash Aradhya of Karnataka.
The junior girls’ finals followed soon after. It was a relatively clean race with Musckaan Chauhan winning her second event,while Mouna Babu came second.
The second heat of the junior boys’ semi-final was one of the fastest, as almost everyone from the first semi-final made it to the final. It was 11 in the morning and the mercury levels were rising. On request of the junior men finalists, their 1000m final was postponed to the evening session.
The evening session will feature elimination races, which are 15 km in distance consisting 75 laps.
The evening session began with the junior boys’ 1000 m final. The race began slowly as expected but with three laps to go,Akash Raju began an early sprint, breaking away from the rest of the group. Dhanush Babu of Karnataka was able to cover the lead that Akash had built up to secure the first position, while Akash had to settle for second place.
It was time for the junior girls’ 15km elimination race. What an elimination race means is that on specific laps, whoever finishes last is eliminated and asked to stop until there are only 5 skaters remaining. The race was relatively fast for a junior girls’ race, since officials had threatened not to send anyone to international events unless participants maintained a decent pace.
The race was uneventful until the only elimination lap when one skater was eliminated. With 2 laps to go, Akhila Roy Chowdhury of Karnataka started the sprint first, but was overtaken by Musckaan Chauhan of Haryana, Tejaswini of Karnataka and Simran of Haryana before claiming second place behind Musckaan.
Next up was the senior men’s elimination race in which two skaters, Raghavendra G.V of Karnataka and Sathya Murthy of Tamil Nadu fell and were automatically eliminated. The race was uneventful until the last lap in which Vikram Ingale of Maharashtra won comfortably.
However, there was a struggle for second place when Vikram B.J of Karnataka and Meet Shah of Gujarat had a physical tussle 10 metres before the finish; it was Meet who eventually came second to secure a place in the Indian team.
The senior women’s race was next in which an injured Varsha Puranik came back to compete and finished the race second behind Aarathy Kasturiraj.
The best race of the day was saved for the last. It was the junior boys competing for a place in the national team. There were 21 participants, out of which 16 skaters had to be eliminated.
The race was very exciting, with last few laps being particularly impressive.
Tejeshwar Ashok of Tamil Nadu won the race quite comfortably followed by Varshith Venugopal of Karnataka who had a blistering last lap.
Congratulations to all the winners on day 1 of the trials.
The races scheduled for tomorrow morning are the 200m and the 500m time trials, both on the road.