Drenched in sweat but savouring victory, G. Lakshmanan (Services) and O.P. Jaisha (Kerala) glowed in the floodlights of the University stadium on the opening night of the athletic events of the 35th National Games here on Monday.
The duo also had enough reason to celebrate as they set meet records in the men’s and women’s 5,000m even without being pushed by their rivals’ challenge. The two races were, in fact, almost identical as both Lakshmanan and Jaisha got to the lead almost straightaway, stayed up front with nonchalant ease and then romped home in style.
And even as they kept the crowd engaged, what stood out was the unflagging commitment that the two displayed while soldiering ahead, never letting up on the pace as they built upon their leads and, quite sensationally, lapped their rivals before the finish line.
The women’s event had 15 vying for the honours, but by 600m the competition was down to just five — Jaisha, Lalita Babar, Swati Gadave, Preeja Sreedharan and P.U. Chitra as they broke off from the rest.
By the 1,400m-mark, it was evident that the race was going to be a solo performance, as the 31-year-old Jaisha changed gears, leaving the Maharashtra girls chasing hard.
Preeja and Chitra were gradually dropped as they failed to keep pace even as their team-mate continued on with quiet determination, going on to lap all but Babar and Gadave.
Jaisha came through throwing up her arms at the finish clocking 15:31.37, reducing Kavita Raut’s 15:54.26 (2011) to a thing of the past.
Babar finished in 15:46.73 to take silver and Gadhave the bronze in 16:26.06.
Lakshman too was hardly challenged as he led the 31-man field from start to finish in the men’s 12-and-a-half lapper clocking a personal best of 13:50.05, that was also markedly better than the existing mark of 14:11.99 set by Soji Mathew in 2011.
Mohammed Younis (Maharashtra) placed second at 14:13.56 before Man Singh added a bronze to the Services tally with 14:15.14.
The third final of the day played out on expected lines when Sahana Kumari (Karnataka) completed a hat-trick of titles at the Games, her 1.80m winning gold in the women’s high jump.
The National record-holder at 1.92m, the only disappointment for Sahana was her failure to break the existing meet mark of 1.82m as her three attempts to clear 1.83m went in vain.
Swapna Barman (Bengal) tied for silver with Malika Mondal (Madhya Pradesh) after both cleared 1.73m.
The results: Men: 5,000m: 1. G. Lakshmanan (Ser), 13:50.05; New Meet Record; Old Record: 14:11.99, 2. Mohd. Younis (Mah), 14:13.56, 3. Man Singh (Ser), 14:15.14.
Women: 5000m: 1. O.P. Jaisha (Ker), 15:31.37; NMR; OR: 15:54.26, 2. Lalita Babar (Mah), 15:46.26, 3. Swati Gadhave (Mah), 16:26.06. High jump: 1. Sahana Kumari (Kar), 1.80m, 2. Swapna Barman (Ben), 1.73m, 2. Malika Mondal (MP), 1.73m.