AT A GLANCE / JULY 2019

Dutee Chand (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page. No copyright infringement intended.)

Gold for Dutee Chand at World Universiade

Sprinter Dutee Chand struck gold at the World University Games (World Universiade) at Naples in Italy.

According to media reports today (July 10, 2019), the national record holder became the first Indian woman track and field athlete to secure gold at the event when she won the 100m dash in 11.32 seconds. Del Ponte of Switzerland placed second with a time of 11.33 second while Germany’s Lisa Kwa Yie finished third in 11.39 seconds.

Dutee’s national record in 100m stands at 11.24 seconds.  At the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, she had won silver in both 100m and 200m. Dutee’s gold at Naples is the second such instance for India after Hima Das won gold in 400m at the World Junior Athletics Championships last year.

New court ruling means Caster Semenya cannot defend her 800m title at Doha World Championships

In the ongoing Caster Semenya vs IAAF story, the South African athlete will now not be able to defend her 800m title at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Doha, as on July 30, a tribunal at the Swiss Supreme overturned an earlier order of the same court granting her temporary exemption from rules set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) regarding athletes having differences in sexual development (DSD).

According to media reports, Semenya, responding through her PR agency, has said that notwithstanding the latest court ruling, she would continue fighting for her human rights and that of other similar athletes. Semenya’s lawyers have said that their appeal process will continue. The South African athlete has declined to take the hormone medication required to lower her testosterone levels to admissible limits.

In a statement posted on its website on July 31, IAAF said, “ the IAAF welcomes the Swiss Federal Tribunal’s decision today to revoke its Super-Provisional Order of 31 May 2019 after hearing the IAAF’s arguments. This decision creates much needed parity and clarity for all athletes as they prepare for the World Championships in Doha this September. In the remainder of the proceedings before the SFT, the IAAF will maintain its position that there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump gender identity, which is why the IAAF believes (and the CAS agreed) that the DSD Regulations are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics.’’

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

2020 Tokyo Olympics: engaging route for marathon on the cards

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now less than a year away.

The Games span July 24-August 9, 2020.

According to a report on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the event will break from tradition by having the Olympic cauldron not in the main stadium “ but on the waterfront at the Yume-no-Ohashi Bridge, near the urban sports cluster.’’ There will be a temporary cauldron in the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies.

The Olympic stadium will be formally opened in December 2019. It has cooling systems given the Games will be held amid weather conditions expected to be warm.

Of particular interest to those tracking endurance sports, should be the description of the Olympic marathon route available in the report.

“ The marathon route starts and finishes at the stadium, passing the landmarks of Kaminarimon (the Thunder Gate, which is guarded by the deities of wind and thunder), the Imperial Palace, home of Japan’s new emperor Naruhito, Tokyo Station, the Zojoji temple, Tokyo Tower and the Nihombashi bridge.

“ But none of these milestones is expected to be as decisive as the hill that rises steadily from 37km to 41km on the course. It is not steep but it is relentless, rising 30m in elevation, from five meters to 35 meters on an otherwise almost flat course.

“ At that stage of the race, given the expected hot conditions, even a mole hill is likely to feel like a mountain to whoever is left in contention,’’ the report said.

Women athletes will hit the course on August 2, 2020; men on August 9.

“ The race walks will be held on the part of the marathon course that crosses the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace, using a one-kilometer loop for the 20km events and a two-kilometer loop for the 50km events,’’ the report said. The men’s 50km walk will have the earliest start among disciplines at the Games to escape the worst of the heat and the humidity.

According to the report, heat acclimatization strategy will be important for all endurance athletes.

So far, more than 3.22 million tickets for the event have been sold in Japan, the report dated July 24, 2019 said.

Mumbai trio complete English Channel swim

The quartet comprising Sudarshan Chari, Zarir Baliwala, Moiz Rajkotwala and Catherine Stefanuti, a South African swimmer based in UK, completed their planned relay swim across the English Channel on July 12, 2019 in 14 hours and 59 minutes. In a message after completing the swim, Zarir informed that since 1875, an estimated 817 teams have successfully done this swim ratified by CSA (Channel Swimming Association). For more on this story, please click on this link:  https://shyamgopan.com/2019/06/29/a-relay-swim-across-the-english-channel/

Tlanding Wahlang (second from right) during the 100k stadium run in Bengaluru (Photo: courtesy Run Meghalaya)

Meghalaya runners claim 100k titles at Bengaluru stadium run

Tlanding Wahlang of Meghalaya won the men’s 100 kilometer-category, part of stadium runs held over July 20-21, 2019 at Bengaluru.

He covered the distance in eight hours, 21 minutes and 38 seconds. He was followed by Suraj Chadha who finished in 8:47:28 hours. In third position was Hemant Beniwal, who completed in 8:54:44.

In the women’s 100k run, Darishisha Langjuh of Meghalaya was the sole participant. She completed in 10:19:28 hours.

In the 24-hour run, Priyanka Bhatt and Sunil Sharma took top honors in the women’s and men’s sections respectively.

Priyanka covered a distance of 170 km in the allotted time. In second position was Shyamala S, who covered a distance of 167.6 k. Bindu Juneja finished third with 163 km covered.

Priyanka Bhatt (Photo: courtesy Priyanka)

Darishisha Langjuh (Photo: courtesy Run Meghalaya)

“ I had trained my mind and my body. Ultra-running is a mind game. Your body follows your mind. I kept telling myself that I have prepared well for this race and can do it,’’ Priyanka told this blog.

In the men’s 24-hour event, Sunil Sharma covered a distance of 215.6 km to place first. In second position was Ullas Narayana, who covered a distance of 212.8 km. Pranaya placed third 211.6 km covered.

In the 12-hour event, Aakriti Sanjeev Verma and Geeno Anthony were the winners in the women’s and men’s categories respectively.

Aakriti covered a distance of 98.4 km. In second position was Juby George, who logged 96.5 km and in third position was Deepti Chaudhary with 95.2 km to her credit.

Geeno Anthony covered a distance of 126.8 km. Velu P was second with 118.4 km and Binay Kumar Sah third with 115.6 km.

Japan sweeps podium positions in half marathon at World University Games

Japan won a third of the gold medals on offer on the final day of athletics action at the World University Games in Naples on Saturday (13), an official statement available on the website of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said.

The morning’s half marathon events – where Japan filled the top three spots in both the men’s and women’s races – set the tone for the rest of the day.

Akira Aizawa finished 12 seconds ahead of compatriot Taisei Nakamura to win the men’s title in 1:05:15 with Tatsuhiko Ito finishing third in 1:05:48. The women’s race was similarly close as 19-year-old Yuka Suzuki took first place in 1:14:10. Rika Kaseda and Yuki Tagawa were separated by just four seconds, clocking 1:14:32 and 1:14:36 respectively to finish second and third, the statement said.

Union Budget 2019: National Sports Education Board to be set up

In her budget speech in parliament today (July 5, 2019), India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that a National Sports Education Board for Development of Sportspersons will be set up.

“ Khelo India Scheme, launched in October, 2017, has created awareness of sports as an integral part of wellness throughout the country. The Government is committed to expand Khelo India Scheme and to provide all necessary financial support. To popularize sports at all levels, a National Sports Education Board for Development of Sportspersons would be set up under Khelo India Scheme,’’ the text of the minister’s speech (part A, point 65) available on the finance ministry’s website said.

Earlier in the 2019 interim budget presented in February, the government had raised the sports budget for 2019-2020 by Rs 214.20 crore to Rs 2216.92 crore. According to published news reports, this included a Rs 55 crore-hike in funding for the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to Rs 450 crore, an increase in allocation for the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) from Rs 2 crore to Rs 70 crore and a hike in the incentive fund for sportspersons from Rs 63 crore to Rs 89 crore. The support for Khelo India was also increased by Rs 50.31 crore to Rs 601 crore in the interim budget of February.

(1 crore=10 million)

Sifan Hassan (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page)

Sifan Hassan sets new world record

Ethiopian-Dutch middle and long distance runner, Sifan Hassan, has become the fastest miler among women to date.

At the Herculis EBS Diamond League athletics meet in Monaco, she covered the distance in 4:12:33 breaking the earlier mark of 4:12:56 set by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia, which had survived for 23 years, a statement available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

Britain’s Laura Weightman (4:17.60) finished second while Gabriela Debues-Stafford of Canada (4:17.87) placed third.

Hassan came into the event as the third fastest miler.

Born in Adama in Ethiopia, Hassan left the country as a refugee and reached the Netherlands in 2008, aged 15. She began running while studying to be a nurse, Wikipedia’s page about her, said.

This photo was downloaded from the event’s Facebook page.

Goa Trail Run to be held on August 18

The second edition of Goa Trail Run is scheduled to be held on August 18, 2019.

Organized by the Goa-based Adventure Breaks, the HDFC Bank Goa Trail Run’s route is on the Socorro plateau in Porvorim.

The event offers two races – 10 kilometers, a half marathon and a fun run of 7.5 kilometers. There are two age categories – open and veteran (above 45 years of age).

The organizer Adventure Breaks started out in 2014 with a Tower Run (a stair climbing race inside buildings) in Goa. “ We have conducted six tower runs in Goa -one every year – since, and two in Mumbai that were sponsored by the Tata Group at the World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade, ‘’ Ashwin Tombat, Director, Adventure Breaks, told this blog recently.

In 2016, Adventure Breaks got into other non-motorized adventure sports (kayaking, sailing, ocean treks, rock climbing, cycling and sea swimming).  “ We got the idea for a trail run when we found this incredible plateau that is wilderness right in the middle of Porvorim, a suburb of Panaji, Goa’s capital city. It took us a few months to recce a route and, last year, we did a 7.5km trail run. About 100 people participated; nearly half of them were women, Ashwin said.

IAAF takes note of slide in global sports participation

Jon Ridgeon, CEO, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has committed the organization to doing its part to address a slide in global sports participation which is endangering the health of future generations and of organized sport, a statement on the IAAF website said.

In a keynote address at the Sports Decision Makers Summit in London on July 10, Ridgeon said he was shocked by some of the recent research on general sports participation among children and young people. He said the latest evidence, which showed that 81 percent of adolescents aged between the ages of 11 and 17 fell below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of physical activity to maintain good health, was a call to arms for all sports federations.

The WHO recommends that each person should do at least two and half hours of moderate activity a week (20 minutes a day), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week (ten minutes a day).

Ridgeon urged other sports organizations to join the IAAF in fighting for the future health of the global population. “ We need to come together, not compete against each other, to collectively campaign for sport,’’ he said.

“ For our part we at the IAAF are committed to campaigning to governments, cities and local authorities to get them to understand the problem we are facing, and to help to change the current decline in community health.

“ I believe athletics is uniquely placed to make a difference. More people run than do any other sport on the plant. An estimated half a billion people around the world run regularly. Running, and walking, is accessible to almost anyone,’’ the statement quoted him as saying.

According to him, the IAAF has begun to address this issue with the inclusion of mass participation opportunities in its World Athletics Series events and the creation of its global Run 24:1 campaign, which encourages people all over the world to run a mile on the same day to promote the joy of running. “ We also want to create a real legacy in the cities around the world that host our World Athletics Series events,’’ he said.

Nanda Devi (Photo: Punit Mehta)

Nanda Devi East / bodies moved to Munsyari

All seven bodies found at the accident spot near Peak 6477 in the Nanda Devi region, have been brought to Munsyari by Indian Air Force (IAF) Cheetah helicopters.

They will be moved to Pithoragarh and Haldwani in bigger choppers, an official familiar with the ongoing operations said today; July 3, 2019. The bodies have not been formally identified yet. The accident occurred in the closing days of May.

Late evening June 23, the media had reported that a team of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), dispatched to recover the bodies of climbers believed to have met with an avalanche on Peak 6477 near Nanda Devi East, had collected seven bodies from the snow. According to a senior ITBP official quoted in the report, the bodies were found “ on the western ridge of the peak towards the Pindari Glacier.”  Peak 6477 is on the ridge continuing from Nanda Khat towards Nanda Devi East. It is on the outer wall of the Nanda Devi sanctuary; Nanda Khat is close to the Pindari Glacier.

On June 30, this blog was told that the IAF having identified a spot at 15,500 feet in the Lavan Valley, where a helicopter can land, had carried out a trial landing. ITBP and disaster management personnel were estimated to take 2-3 days to carry the bodies to this location on foot. From there, the bodies were to be airlifted to Pithoragarh. In a separate development, two media reports, one quoting the district magistrate of Pithoragarh and the other quoting a senior ITBP official, also said that the search for the eighth climber had been “ abandoned.”

It was in end-May that news broke of eight climbers (seven from overseas plus the team’s liaison officer from India), part of an expedition that had set out to attempt Nanda Devi East, reported missing following avalanche on Peak 6477. The expedition was led by well-known British mountaineer and mountain guide, Martin Moran.

In subsequent search operations, helicopter sorties by the Indian Air Force (with some of the surviving members of the expedition aboard to refine area of search) had sighted five bodies in the snow and ample evidence of avalanche.

Besides a large team composed of personnel from ITBP, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) dispatched from the Munsyari side, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) had also sent a team for recovery operations. The latter headed up from the Pindari Glacier side.

For more reports providing background, please refer the list of articles on this blog dating from end-May onward.

Update / July 6: The eighth climber, whose body wasn’t found, is expedition leader, Martin Moran, a news report from Nainital said. The remaining seven bodies have been identified. The report quoted the District Magistrate of Nainital, Savin Bansal. The bodies were identified after their photographs were dispatched to the respective embassies in Delhi. The body of the team’s liaison officer who hailed from Almora in Kumaon, was identified earlier in the week. Eight climbers had been reported missing late May following an avalanche near Peak 6477 in the neighborhood of Nanda Devi East.

This photo was downloaded from the event’s Facebook page.

Kenya’s Henry Togom, India’s Priti Lamba win Bengaluru 10k Challenge

Henry Kiprono Togom of Kenya took top honours at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Bengaluru 10k Challenge held on July 7, 2019.

He finished the 10 kilometer-distance in 31:44 minutes.

He was followed closely behind by Mikiyas Yemata Lemlemu of Ethiopia, who finished in 31:57 minutes. Pramod Kumar of India placed third with a timing of 32:19 minutes.

This photo was downloaded from the event’s Facebook page.

Among women, Priti Lamba of India crossed the finish line in 37 minutes to secure the first position in the 10k race. Stellah Cherotich of Kenya came in second with a timing of 42.56 minutes followed by Farheen Firdose who had similar time but was microseconds behind the Kenyan.

In the five kilometer-race, Kunal Sangalge was the winner with a timing of 21:16 minutes followed by Srikant Nayak in 21:42 minutes. In third position was Adarsh S, who crossed the 5k finish line in 21:58 minutes.

Among women, Shloka Murthy came in first with a timing of 22:06 minutes. Kaveri Velankar finished second with a timing of 24:15 and Kasturi Velankar third with a timing of 27:25.

Yuta Shitara (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of Gold Coast Marathon)

Yuta Shitara of Japan sets course record at Gold Coast Marathon

Japanese runner Yuta Shitara set a course record at the Gold Coast Marathon held on July 7, 2019.

The Japanese runner crossed the finish line of the men’s race in two hours, seven minutes and 50 seconds, bettering the course timing of 2:08:42 set in 2015 by Kenyan runner Kenneth Mungara.

The Gold Coast Marathon, in Australia, is an IAAF Gold Label road race.

“ With Shitara’s 2:07:50, Kenya’s Barnabas Kitum’s 2:08:02 and New Zealand’s Zane Robertson’s 2:08:19, the 2019 Gold Coast race provided the three fastest times on Australian soil,’’ IAAF said in a report.

Weather conditions were tough with strong headwinds and heavy rain.

In the same race, five-time Olympian Bernard Lagat set an American masters record in a marathon with a timing of 2:12:10, ten seconds faster than Meb Keflezighi’s timing set at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)