R Vithya Ramraj of Tamil Nadu came within one-hundredth of a second from bettering the oldest track national record on Monday. The Hangzhou Asian Games-bound runner from Tamil Nadu achieved a dominating victory in the women’s 400m hurdles at the Indian Grand Prix 5 here.
Vithya clocked 55.43 seconds, just missing out on bettering the mark set by former track queen PT Usha, who clocked 55.42 seconds in the 400m hurdles final at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics while narrowly missing out on a medal. Usha’s record is 39 years old; only one national mark is older – the late Shivnath Singh’s 1978 marathon record of 2:12:00, set in Jalandhar.
Vithya, 24 – her twin Nithya will compete in the 100m hurdles at Hangzhou – had also gone close to breaking Usha’s mark at the Bhubaneswar inter-state meet in March (56.01secs). Her brilliant run – she finished well ahead of the second-placed Sinchal Kaveramma of Karnataka (58.46 secs) – follows Sunday’s 400m victory clocking 52.40 secs.
“PT Usha ma’am is an icon for many athletes. It would have been great to have my name alongside that record. It is a very old record set up by a legend. Before the race began, I had the record in mind and wanted to break it. But I will improve and break the record in the Asian Games,” Vithya said. “I was a bit slow in my first 200m, (otherwise) I would have broken the record today itself. I have improved my speed. My aim would be to run below 55 seconds in China.”
Her coach Nehpal Singh Rathore said: “Her growth in terms of the timing has been very gradual. When she started with me, her timing used to be 59 and today it was 55. She is prepared well for the Asian Games.” The daughters of an auto driver who grew up in modest circumstances both hold government jobs now. Vithya is with the Indian Railways and Nithya is employed with the Income-Tax department.
No sprint relay teams
Another significant outcome from the two-day meet was the non-inclusion of the men’s and women’s 4x100m relay teams. The men’s Team A of Harjit Singh, Borgohain, Amiya Kumar Mallick and Siva Kumar B clocked 39.24 seconds, with Team B (40.63) and Team C (41.64) finishing behind.
The leading women’s squad of Nithya Gandhe, Vijaya Kumari, Srabani Nanda and Jyothi Yarraji, the Team A, clocked only 44.66 seconds, ahead of Team B (45.36) and Team C (47.90). The qualifying mark set by AFI was 39 seconds for men and 44 seconds for women.
Amlan, Priti in Games squad
Haryana 3,000m steeplechase runner Priti Lamba, Uttar Pradesh’s Prachi (women’s and mixed 4x400m relays) and Assam sprinter Amlan Borgohain (200m) have been added to the Asian Games athletics squad, according to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) selection committee. Borgohain’s season’s best in 200m is 20.55 secs. Vikash Singh has been included in place of the injured Akshdeep Singh in the men’s 20km race walk.
Priti won the steeplechase clocking 9: 45.13 secs to impress the selection panel. She had to run under 9:47 for selection. Parul Chaudhary is India’s leading runner who bettered her national record to 9:15.31 at the Budapest World Championships.
The men’s steeplechase though will have only Avinash Sable. Bal Kishan’s hopes of making the cut as a second runner were dashed after he trailed in at seventh, clocking a pedestrian 8 minutes, 55.96 secs.
In men’s 400m hurdles, Yashas P from Karnataka clocked 49.69 secs for victory, ahead of Dhaval Mahesh Utekar (51.23). In women’s 800m, Delhi’s Chanda, who won silver at the Asian Championships, beat Uttar Pradesh’s Harmilan Bains, who is on an injury comeback. Chanda clocked 2:02.68 to Bains’ 2:03.06. Both are already in the Asian Games squad and will run the 800m. In men’s shot put, the Hangzhou-bound Sahib Singh threw 18.29 m for victory. Seema Antil (UP) won the women’s discus with a throw of 57.90m.