Preeja Sreedharan pips Kavita in engrossing battle in 10,000m

It could not have been closer. A race that was predicted to go right down to the wire finished exactly that way with Preeja Sreedharan pipping Kavita Raut to the tape in the women's 10,000 metres on the opening day of the 51st senior inter-State athletics championship at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.

A little earlier, another contest — the women's long jump — which promised a mouth-watering fare, fizzled out as sharp showers just after the inauguration ceremony rendered the run-up a little damp.

Mayookha Johny missed out on her personal best as well as the World and Olympic qualifying (‘B' standard) by a whisker (0.02m) as she finished with 6.63m. Her best effort of the day was, however, enough to beat Anju George's four-year-old mark of 6.53m.

Unnecessary delay

The organisers of the event — Karnataka Athletic Association (KAA) — unduly delayed the inauguration ceremony and soon after State Home and Transport Minister R. Ashok inaugurated the championship, there was a heavy downpour, delaying the schedule by over 40 minutes.

The key battles were two-horse affairs as Mayookha and Prajusha slugged it out for the long jump gold while Preeja and Kavita went toe-to-toe in the 10,000m, providing excitement and entertainment to the spectators.

Both Preeja and Kavita, after some astounding performances in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year, renewed their battle for supremacy.

Kavita, coming off a fine win in the World 10K (Indian women) last Sunday, looked the stronger of the two. However, the pint-sized Preeja, sticking with her opponent for most part of the race, broke away in the final 50-odd metres to take the gold.

Working well

“It was my strategy to run close to her and then make the move at the straight. It worked nicely,” said a beaming Preeja after the race. “We train together but she recently ran the World 10K and is in competitive mode. I am still regaining my peak fitness ahead of the long season,” said the 28-year-old Kerala runner.

Mayookha, on the other hand, was participating in the long jump event after a long gap and was mighty pleased with her effort.

“I have been competing in the Asian GP and other meets only in the triple jump and did a 14-plus in that. But, long jump is my focus for now and I expected to qualify here. I will now have to wait till the Asian championship to make the grade,” said the 23-year-old jumper from Kerala.

Valiant effort

Incidentally, Mayookha made a valiant effort off her final jump, but she could only register a 6.60 after her ponytail touched a wee bit back; otherwise, it would have been a 6.70 plus effort.

Prajusha, unhappy as the run-up was not smooth, managed 6.47m, fouling two attempts while trying to give it her all. In hammer throw, Manju Bala of Rajasthan clinched the gold with 55.94m while Arjun (Delhi) won the men's discus with a relatively poor 53.56m in the morning session.

As many as 31 States took part in the march past ahead of the opening ceremony.

The results:

Men: 10,000m: 1. Keta Ram (Raj) 29:20.35s, 2. Suresh Kumar Patel (UP) 29:25.42s, 3. V.L. Dangi (Mah) 30:10.45s.

Discus: 1. Arjun (Del) 53.56 m, 2. Sunil Kumar (Jhar) 51.23m, 3. Vikas Punia (Raj) 49.17m.

Women: 10,000m: 1. Preeja Sreedharan (Ker) 34:33.48s, 2. Kavita Raut (Mah) 34:33.64s, 3. Surya Loganathan (TN) 35:27.18s.

Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny (Ker) 6.63m (NMR, old Anju George 6.53m), 2. M.A. Prajusha (Ker) 6.47m, 3. Chalu Choudhary (Del) 6.24m.

Hammer: 1. Manju Bala (Raj) 55.94m, 2. Anitha Abraham (Ker) 54.88m, 3. Sarita (Guj) 52.66m.

Javelin: S. Saraswati (TN) 52.00m, 2. Suman Devi (UP) 46.95m, 3. Rupinder Kaur (Pun) 46.11m.

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