THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The atmosphere was electrifying. The runway and the landing pit of the University Stadium were bathed in pale white light plummeting from the floodlight towers. The crowd was boisterous, and the temperature was gentle. Ideal for a perfect showdown.
There was the duo, K Premkumar of Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh's Ankit Sharma, rivals in top-flight competitions. For the last three years, Indian long jump relies on these two athletes. Whenever they perform, there is a ray of hope. A spark of belief that they can leave a dot at least in the Asian sporting map. Whenever they fail. every thing seems to be so mediocre. To boot that, the presence of the two prompts the other to deliver.
On Tuesday, the healthy crowd that assembled here came to know what the presence of one can do to the other. Ankit, started with a mediocre 7.44m, while Premkumar did 7.63 in the opening effort. Normally, it would have given Premkumar a slight leeway. But Ankit had other plans.
He recorded 7.73m in his next jump before increasing the distance to 7.96m , a new meet record.
Premkumar, the current national record holder came up with a foul jump before finding 7.67m in his third attempt. Ankit followed his meet record with another giant leap of 8.04m. There after everything Premkumar did was academical.
In his last two attempts, Ankit tried to better the national record of 8.09m, but in vain. This performance was in fact a sort of redemption for Ankit. He had failed to qualify for the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and also sustained injury in his ankle during the Federation Cup in Patiala.
"This win at the beginning of the season will increase his chance of qualifying for the World Championships. Ankit had planned to clear 8.10m which was the qualifying mark for the World Championships," said Ankit's coach NV Nishad Kumar.
Asian Games bronze -medallist Inderjeet Singh of Haryana erased the 21-year-old meet mark in shot put with a giant toss of 20.14m. He obliterated the existing record of 19.38m set by Punjab's Bahadur Singh in 1994. In the women's 1500m, little known Monika Chaudhary of Uttar Pradesh shocked the seasoned campaigner Sini A Markose of Kerala and Sushma Devi of Haryana to pocket gold. Dutee Chand entered the 100m finals after clocking 11.75, the second best time of the day.