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FAST TRACK Iyleen Samantha (right) is one of the most promising athletes to watch out for
FAST TRACK Iyleen Samantha (right) is one of the most promising athletes to watch out for

Iyleen Samantha is running and winning medals

On a cool October morning at the Meerut Sports Stadium two years ago, a lithe and long-limbed lass from Secunderabad set the grassy track ablaze. Iyleen Samantha dashed away with gold in the 100, 200 and 400 metres for girls under 20 years; a feat equalled by no one in the 2004 National inter-zonal athletics championships. For the 21-year-old who began athletics at the Railway Mixed High School, South Lallaguda, at the urging of Physical Education Teacher Rajini, the triple gold feat was no flash in the pan. Only that her coach Ezhil Vanan, a Railway employee, insisted that she compete actively only after school.That Iyleen had potential became obvious at the junior National athletics championships in Shimoga, Karnataka in January 2003. That being her first outing at the National level, she showed no trace of nerves, as she sprinted away to gold in the 100 and 200 m, clocking 12.39 and 25.32 seconds respectively.Towards the close of that year, she was at it again, this time at Kollam, Kerala in the next edition of the junior Nationals. What was really eye-catching was that she had lopped off .23 seconds in her 200-metre timing in under a year. In that south Kerala town, she added the 400-metre gold too, hitting the tape in 55.17 seconds.In between, signs of her promise were not belied, as she darted away with gold in the Federation Cup at Chennai in the 200 and 400 metres, besides a silver in the short sprint. Her performance at the circuit meet at Patiala sealed her place in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games in her hometown, where the 4 x 400 m relay squad finished fourth.The intrepid runner more than made amends soon after, claiming gold in the same event at the Asian Indoor Games at Bangkok. Her running success graph merited her a place in a training programme in Russia for three months. So was she selected to undergo a similar stint in South Africa, but which she had to miss on account of her examination.Her most recent success was at the Open National at Gachibowli, where she was a member of the gold-medal winning 4 x 400 m relay squad.Iyleen juggles time between early morning training at the Osmania University grounds, her job as Commercial Clerk with South Central Railway at Secunderabad Station and pursuing a B. Com degree from the B.R. Ambedkar Open University. "During the early hours, there's almost no one at the OU grounds and I train with former athlete Douglas Johnson," she says.In the evenings, she does weight training at the Uppal gym of Kantha Rao, father of athlete Harathi. That Iyleen does this in right earnest is obvious for there is not a trace of flab in her physique. She hopes to make the squad for the Doha Asian Games towards the end of the year. Until then, she will continue preparation under the watchful eyes of Johnson, since coach Vanan is away in the US for a year. A JOSEPH ANTONY

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