Shot putters Abha Khatua and Tajinderpal Singh Toor grabbed the spotlight in the inaugural National Open Throws Competition as the athletics season kicked off on Sunday.
The 26-year-old Abha Khatua, who gave up heptathlon to focus on one event, became only the third Indian woman shot putter to breach the 17m mark when she claimed gold with a 17.09m effort. The Bengal-born athlete joined two Manpreet Kaurs in the 17m club. More significantly, she went past the Asian Games qualifying standard laid down by the Athletics Federation of India. Manpreet Kaur, the current national record holder who has gone past the 17m mark in 10 competitions between 2015 and 2017, finished second on Sunday with 16.74m. The 31-year-old produced her best effort since her return last year.
Toor, 27, opened the year with a winning effort of 19.94m. Each of his three valid attempts would have won him the title on Sunday when Karanveer Singh's best was 19.17m. Toor will have reasons to be happy with his early season form. Hammer thrower Sarita Singh was in a league of her own, going past the 60m mark for the first time since the 2018 Asian Games. The 32-year-old had a winning throw of 61.78m in her fourth attempt though she could not touch the Asian Games qualifying standard of 63m.
Rohit Yadav, 21, raised his game to secure a memorable victory over Sahil Silwal in the men's javelin throw competition. Trailing the Haryana athlete after four rounds, Rohit Yadav came up with efforts of 77.68m and 77.89m in his final two efforts to leave Sahil Silwal with the silver medal. Sanjana Choudhary, who had a series of second-place finishes last year, won the women's javelin throw with 52.41m to push the experienced Sharmila Kumari to the silver medal spot.
Seema Antil won the women's discus throw with a best effort of 54.93m while Mahipal Singh's opening throw of 54.80m in the men's hammer throw was good enough to fetch him the gold. AFI chief coach Radhakrishnan Nair pointed out that none of the athletes reduced his or her load ahead of this competition at the start of the season. He also said the athletes would have to attain or be close to the qualifying standards in the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships, to be held from June 10 to 14, to be considered for selection.