The quartermile continued to be the topic of discussion in Indian athletics, albeit on a positive note, as M.R. Poovamma clocked 52.75 seconds to win the gold in the 17th Federation Cup athletics championships at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) here on Wednesday.

Pleased at bettering her previous personal best of 52.94s set at the Asian Grand Prix last year, Poovamma said that she would be able to get the qualifying standard of 52.35s in the forthcoming international meets in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The expected competition for Poovamma from Anu Mariam Jose did not materialise. Poovamma, trained by N. Ramesh, ran her race in the second half, as she was determined to improve on her time of 53.59 that she had clocked in the domestic Grand Prix earlier this month at the same venue.

“I expected a fight at least till 300 metres, but after 200 metres I got away,” said Poovamma who burst through in the final stretch.

Her coach said that Poovamma was shaping very well in training and would be getting better in the next three races of the Asian Grand Prix.

The men’s 400 metres also witnessed Arokia Rajiv asserting himself ahead of Kunhu Mohammed once again. “I had to do it. I am happy to equal my personal best,” said Rajiv who had clocked the same time in Chennai last year.

He pulled away in the last 90 metres and hung on to the lead till the finish. He hoped that better competition would push him to an improved time soon.

Manjeet Singh had much better competition from Sajeesh Joseph in the men’s 800 metres, but he pulled through in the last 10 metres with ease.

Nikhil Chittarasu of Tamil Nadu attempted to better the meet record in high jump, but could not clear 2.22 metres when everyone watched with bated breath under the inadequate floodlights. He cleared 2.19 metres to take the gold, six centimetres ahead of Jithin Thomas of Kerala.

Mayookha Johny was below par in winning the women’s long jump at 6.16m, though it had to be conceded that she was taking off, at least half a foot before the board, most of the time. She started with a 6.03 jump and ended up with 6.13.

Unlike other athletes who were struggling to reach the World Championships qualifying marks, the Indian walkers were in a much a healthy state and thus were able to focus on the competition without much worry.

With K.T. Irfan, Gurmeet Singh and Chandan Singh having already achieved the ‘A’ standard in 20 kilometre walk, Babu Bhai Panucha jumped into the fray by clocking 1 hour 24 minutes and 36 seconds.

Though it was better than the ‘B’ standard, the conduct of the event did not meet the specifications to be eligible for achieving the qualifying standards. Athletics Federation of India (AFI), secretary general, C.K. Valson pointed out that the race was not done on the IAAF approved course, owing to a technical hitch.

The Russian coach Alexander Artsybashev said that he expected to field seven walkers in the World Championships including the women’s winner Kushbir Kaur, who has already achieved the ‘B’ standard, and came pretty close to that mark again on Wednesday.

The results: Men: 400m: 1. Arokia Rajiv 46.57; 2. Kunhu Mohammed 46.83; 3. Bibin Mathew 46.94. 800m: 1. Manjeet Singh 1:48.48; 2. Sajeesh Joseph 1:49.03; 3. Jinson Johnson 1:49.60. High jump: 1. Nikhil Chittarasu 2.19; 2. Jithin Thomas 2.13; 3. Kuwar Surajit Kumar 2.10, A. Shaiju 2.10, Silvar Star 2.10. 20km walk: 1. Babu Bhai Panucha 1:24:36; 2. Kuldeep 1:24:47; 3. Sandeep Kumar 1:26:07. Decathlon: 1. K. Dilip Kuar 6546; 2. V.V. Raneesh 6360; 3. Binoy John Mathew 6299.

Women: 400m: 1. M.R. Poovamma 52.75; 2. Anu Mariam Jose 53.88; 3. Anju Thomas 55.14. Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny 6.16; 2. V. Neena 5.98; 3. Kaushalya 5.95. Shot put: 1. Neha Singh 13.63; 2. Manpreet Kaur 13.36; 3. Harkirat Kaur 13.30. 20km walk: 1. Kushbir Kaur 1:38:03; 2. Rani Yadav 1:42:26; 3. Ranjana Gupta 1:44:33.

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