Stunning Nirmala sets new mark

Athletics Inter-state meet : Haryana athlete betters Poovamma's meet record

Stunning Nirmala sets new mark

 Nirmala Sheoran isn’t a name that rings an instant bell in the minds of Indian athletics fans. That she was part of the gold medal winning 4x400M relay team at the 2013 Asian Championships in Pune is almost forgotten now.

On Thursday, the Haryana athlete served a reminder that she was still around with a stunning performance in the 400M heats at the 56th Inter-State Championships. In the final on Friday, she did even better, breaching the meet record with the best show by an Asian this season, earning the Olympic qualification norm and leaving a trail of questions at the GMC Balayogi Stadium.

Nirmala’s 52.35 in the heats had pitch-forked her into contention for a slot in the Indian 4x400 relay team and with her 51.48 meet record on the day, she ensured her credentials would be hard to overlook now. Members of the relay squad being prepared by the Athletics Federation of India sported a grim look, understandably so, as Nirmala shattered M R Poovamma’s meet record of 51.73 in 2014.

In a race also featuring Jisna Mathew, another contender for the relay spot, Nirmala set a torrid pace from the start. Jisna followed but she had no chance of catching up with this bundle of power. The 22-year-old established a commanding lead by the time the runners entered the straight and she won with a lead of 15 metres, comfortably ducking under the Rio qualification time of 52.20. Manjeet Kaur’s national record of 51.05 barely survived even as the 16-year-old Jisna, fighting hard, timed a personal best for the silver, finishing in 53.14.

Nirmala said she was preparing for this competition with Olympic qualification in mind. “I had a hamstring injury and after that, I was focused on this event,” said Nirmala, daughter of a farmer in Bhiwani.

Before arriving in Hyderabad, she had a best of 53.94, and last year, her best show was a bronze at the National Games in a time of 55.19 seconds.

In the 400M ‘B’ race held to assess the form of the relay contenders, Ashwini Akkunji topped in 53.70 seconds. Debashree Majumdar (53.71), Anu Raghavan (53.78), Juana Murmu (54.27), Priyanka Panwar (54.41) and Sini Jose (54.78) finished in that order, giving an indication as to where the runners stand.

The 19-year-old Yugant Shekhar Singh was another performer to catch the eye, in the long jump pit. The Uttar Pradesh youngster claimed the gold with a 7.74M leap. Muhammed Anees, brother of 400M national record holder Muhammed Anas, claimed silver with 7.64 while Karnataka’s Shamsheer SE won the bronze at 7.49. Karnataka had another bronze on the day in the men’s 400M through Nagaraj Kudubhavi while the women’s 4x100 team picked up silver. 

Results: Men: 400M: Pankaj Malik (Chandigarh) 47.40 seconds, 1; Noah Nirmal Tom (Kerala) 47.47, 2; Nagaraj Kudubhavi (Karnataka) 47.67, 3.

400M hurdles: Jithin Paul (Kerala) 50.41 seconds, 1; Jabir M P (Kerala) 51.34, 2; Santhosh Kumar (Tamil Nadu) 51.71, 3.

High jump: Ajay Kumar (Haryana) 2.17 metres, 1; Ritesh Kumar (Uttar Pradesh) 2.17, 2; Jagdeep Singh (Punjab) 2.17, 3.

Long jump: Yugant Shekhar Singh (Uttar Pradesh) 7.74 metres, 1; Muhammed Anees (Gujarat) 7.64, 2; Shamsheer S E (Karnataka) 7.49, 3.

Discus throw: Kirpal Singh (Punjab) 59.74 (New Meet Record. Old: 59.70, Anil Kumar, 2000), 1; Baljinder Singh (Punjab) 54.08, 2; Dharam Raj Yadav (Uttar Pradesh) 53.64, 3.
4x100M relay: Tamil Nadu 40.72 seconds, 1; Kerala 41.12, 2; Manipur 41.35, 3.

Women: 400M: Nirmala Sheoran (Haryana) 51.48 seconds (NMR. Old: 51.73, M R Poovamma, 2014), 1; Jisna Mathew (Kerala) 53.14, 2; Sowndharya PN (Tamil Nadu) 53.85, 3.

Discus throw: Navjeet Kaur (Punjab) 55.07 metres, 1; Sandeep Kumari (Haryana) 53.88, 2; Kamalpreet Kaur (Punjab) 50.02, 3.

Heptathlon: Sindhu K D (Kerala) 4441 points, 1; Kanimozhi (Tamil Nadu) 4238, 2; Anila Jose (Kerala) 4189, 3.

4x100M relay: Maharashtra 47.26 seconds, 1; Karnataka (Apsana Begum, Prajna S Prakash, G K Vijayakumari, Reena George) 47.57, 2; Tamil Nadu 47.75, 3.

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