Maheswary, Dharambir, Jinson Johnson make cut for Rio Olympics Games

Bengaluru: It turned out to be a “Lucky Monday” for triple jumper Renjith Maheswary, sprinter Dharambir Singh and middle distance runner Jinson Johnson as the trio make the cut for the Rio Olympics Games on Monday.

Today was the last day for attaining qualification for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the three Indians capitalized the opportunity, two of them with national records, in their “Last Chance Meet” this evening at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here during the 4th leg of Indian Grand Prix.

Renjith leaps to glory
Triple jumper Renjith Maheswary making his third Olympic voyage in Rio after having taken part in Beijing-2008 and London-2012. The former Asian champion often received criticism after landed with ‘no marks’ in two major events—the World championships in 2011 at Daegu and the Olympic Games in London the following year. Renjith was the only Indian triple jumper to cross 17m barrier on three occasions besides a wind-aided 17.19m during the Asian championships at Amman, Jordan, way back in 2007. However Arpinder Singh snatched the national record title from him in 2014 with a leap of 17.17m. From that day onwards two things stay on Renjith’s mind—to qualify for another edition of the Olympic Games and to get back his national mark. Both he accomplished this evening in Bengaluru.

Renjith was trying to qualify for Rio since last year. However each he was missing the mark narrowly. His last best jump of 16.98m was achieved in Chennai three years ago. He was failing to make the grade in the inter-state championships at Hyderabad ten days ago after registering a season best 16.56m. Renjith went to take part in Thailand Open thereafter. However his third round jump of 16.93m did the trick today. Having achieved the qualification Renjith made a “big leap” of 17.30m that not only regained his national record back but also placed him third in the current world rankings for the event behind Americans Christian Taylor (17.76) and Will Claye (17.65).

“The weather was not congenial in Hyderabad. I tried to qualify in Thailand but fouled a couple of jumps. The runway in this Bengaluru stadium is good and that helped me to accomplish my dream of making it to Rio” revealed Renjith after the event.

Even Renjith was taking his rounds, Haryana sprinter Dharambir clocked an impressive 20.45 secs in 200m that not only improved his own national mark of 20.66 secs set during the Asian championships at Wuhan last year, but also earned him a berth on the Rio bound team.

Incidentally the 200m was the event where India got a silver medal at Olympics through Norman Pritchard in Paris some 116 years ago! As much as 11 athletes represented India in the Olympic Games before Dharambir. However the last Indian sprinter to run 200m was Tamil Nadu’s Perumal Subramaniam in 1980 at Moscow Olympics.
Relentless Jinson made it with a solo run
Half-miler Jinson Johnson’s effort should be ranked the ‘performance of the day’ as he virtually ran a “solo race” to dip within the Rio qualifying norm of 1:46.00 in men’s 800m. Having missed the mark in Hyderabad ten days with mere 0.43 secs, Jinson told himself he is going to get it anyway this evening that he realized with a memorable 1:45.98 clocking.

Jinson’s time was the second best ever by an Indian at this distance after Sri Ram Singh’s marvelous 1:45.77 seventh place finish in Montreal Olympics forty years ago. Sri Ram’s was the oldest “living” national record and going to celebrate its “40th birthday” two weeks from now!

A silver medalist in last year’s Asian championships at Wuhan, Jinson won all the three legs of Asian Grand Prix held at Thailand in 2015. “I have been waiting for this moment. The weather and track were good today that helped me to achieve the target” a delighted Johnson told the media after the race.

A near miss by Neena
India’s fast improving long jumper V Neena leaped 6.66m on her second round today. It was just 4 cm short of the required Olympic qualification grade. In less than two weeks Neena raised her personal best by 21 cm. Having started with the win in inter-state at Hyderabad in 6.45, Neena went on to grab the gold at Thai Open with 1 cm improvement. Yesterday at the same venue here she clinches the gold in 3rd leg of the Indian Grand Prix with a wind-aided 6.57m. Today’s was a legal best with 0.7 metre per second reading on the anemometer.

Another athlete who caught the eye this evening was javelin thrower Devender Singh, who recorded with a personal best 80.21m to win the event. His previous best 79.65m was achieved while winning the Federation Cup at Mangaluru last year. The Rio QM in this event stands at 83m. In a similar passion woman javelin thrower Annu Rani delivered 59.20m against the requisite 62m. In Hyderabad last week she improved her national mark to 59.87m and hence expected to do better here.

As expected Arokia Rajiv (46.24 secs) and M R Poovamma (52.85s) took the top spot in 400m for men and women divisions respectively. In 400m hurdles Jinson Johnson (50.53s) suffered a defeat in the hands of Ayyasamy Dharun (50.51s).

After the end of European championships in Amsterdam last night the Indian men and women 4x400m relay teams standing in 13th rank while the women’s 4x100m quartet fails to make the Top-16 grade as they are placed at 20th.