The Indian men’s team was poised for a strong finish with a little over nine hours left to run at the IAU 24-Hour Asia & Oceania Championships currently underway in Bengaluru.
At 10:40 pm on Day 1, three Indian athletes were in the lead position – Saurav Kumar Ranjan, Amar Singh Devanda and Geeno Antony; in that order. With eligibility for team position restricted to nations with a minimum number of three runners in the fray and India among countries eligible so (the others being Chinese Taipei and Australia), the pecking order of late Saturday strengthened hopes of a fine podium finish for India.
For the first 12 hours of the race, Shin-Gwo Tsay from Taipei was in third position while Saurav and Amar maintained their grip on the first two positions. Later, Geeno Antony who was running in fourth position edged up to the third. Both Saurav and Amar are from the Indian Air Force, Geeno works with the Indian Army.
Margins in some instances in the pecking order were tight (there was a contest for the third position evolving between Geeno and Joe Ward of Australia) and nine hours is plenty of time for fortunes to change. The 24-hour run comes to a close at 8 AM on Sunday, July 3, the second day of the championship.
In the women’s race, the leading athlete at 10:40 PM was Kuan-Ju Lin from Taipei. Kathia Rached from Lebanon was in second position and Allicia-Grace Heron from Australia, in third position. At 10:50 PM, Indian women runners – Anju Saini, Shashi Mehta and Asha Singh – were in fifth, sixth and seventh position respectively.
This is the first time, the IAU 24-Hour Asia and Oceania Championships are being held in India. The Bengaluru event features four categories in all – 24-hour run for elite athletes and national teams, 24 hour-run in the open category, 12 hour-run in the open category and a 12 hour-relay for teams of runners. National teams from four countries – Australia, Lebanon, Chinese Taipei and India – are taking part in the flagship race. They are competing for both individual and team medals.
A minimum of three runners representing a country must participate, for that nation to be in the running for a team medal. Lebanon having only two runners at the competition has ensured team medals for the remaining three countries, participating. The question is: who gets which medal? The team position will be decided from the total mileage of the leading three members of each country.
Besides the national teams in the elite category, there are runners from Poland and the UK participating in the open category.
The 24-hour race commenced at 8 AM on July 2 and will end at 8 AM on July 3.
(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)