GUNTUR: The 57th national inter-state athletics championship got off to a smooth start in Guntur on Saturday. Among the many stars in action, two stood out. They were Anu Raghavan and MP Jabir.
As soon as the lanky Anu crossed the finish line, she fell on her knees and looked up at the sky as though thanking her lucky stars. Why wouldn’t she? She had finished more than a second ahead of silver medal winner Jauna Murmu of Odisha. Another athlete making Kerala proud was Jabir. Both are pleasant characters, ever willing to answer questions from reporters even after a tiring run.
Anu won gold in women’s 400m hurdles. The 57.21sec she clocked was a personal best and meet record. It was not her race initially. The Asian Championship silver winner was trailing Murmu and it was only in the final straight that she dashed ahead. Asked about the importance of this victory, she said, “I won gold in the Federation Cup last year. I am happy to have won a gold in this championship.”
She underwent training in Thiruvananthapuram, under the tutelage of PB Jaikumar. Thanking her sporting genes, she said it’s something that runs in the family. “My mother used to play basketball in the 1980s and my sister was a national-level judo player before she got married. But there was no pressure on me to join sports or do something else. The choice has always been mine,” she said, asked about encouragement from home.
Anu aims to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games and make India proud. After a brief disappointing stint when she wasn’t winning medals and was dropped from the Olympic squad, she thought of quitting athletics for good. But she is back in form.
In men’s 400m hurdles, Jabir stood out. Fresh from winning bronze in the recent Asian Championship, he was the favourite. He bettered his personal best of 50.22 that he had clocked at the Asian meet in Bhubaneswar. He works for Indian Navy and is currently posted in Kochi. Asked about training, he said,
“I trained at the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports in Patiala. My next goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics,” said the athlete. “I am representing Andhra Pradesh only in the inter-state athletics meets. Otherwise, I represent India.”
Two golds for TN athletes
Meanwhile, TN’s G Lakshmanan grabbed a gold medal in the men’s 5000m event. The 27-year-old, who recently won gold in the same event in Bhubaneswar, clocked 14:07.76. Another TN athlete – Loganathan Suriya – won the women’s 5000m event with a time of 15:46.92, a meet record.