AT A GLANCE / DECEMBER 2019

Joshua Cheptegei (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Joshua Cheptegei sets new world record in 10K

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei has set a new world record in the 10km road race, clocking 26 minutes 38 seconds at the 10K Valencia Trinidad Alfonso on December 1, a report available on the website of World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations) said.

He took off six seconds from the previous record of 26:44 set by Kenya’s Patrick Komon in 2010.

Earlier this year at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Cheptegei had claimed gold in the 10,000m. He is also the 2019 world cross country champion.

According to Wikipedia, in 2018, he had set a world record in the 15km road race.  At the 2017 World Championships in London, he had been silver medalist in the 10,000m.

Russia banned from major sport events for four years

Russia has been banned for four years from major sport events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Such major events include the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 FIFA World Cup due in Qatar, BBC reported on its website. The latest development in the doping scandal plaguing Russia follows a meeting of WADA’s executive committee in Lausanne, Switzerland on December 9. Their decision is essentially an approval of recommendations put forth by WADA’s Compliance Review Committee.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, in its report on the ban said, “ Russian athletes who can prove to WADA’s satisfaction that they are clean and were not part of what it believes was a state-sponsored system of doping will still be allowed to compete under a neutral flag.’’  However, ahead of WADA’s Lausanne meeting, BBC pointed out that while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was open to clean Russian athletes competing under neutral flag, a majority of those on WADA’s influential Athletes’ Committee favored complete ban.

In January 2019, RUSADA, Russia’s anti-doping agency had been declared non-compliant given its manipulation of laboratory data provided to investigators. The data was a condition for the agency’s reinstatement in 2018 following its three year-suspension, effected earlier.

RUSADA has 21 days to appeal against the latest ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, BBC said.

Russia has been banned from competing as a nation in athletics, since 2015. The aftereffects of the doping scandal exposed some years ago, has been playing on for a while now. Notwithstanding the latest ban, Russia can participate in Euro 2022 as its organizing body – UEFA – is not classified as a major event organization, BBC said in its report.

Arvind, Naveen, Avisha; on the podium at Kathmandu (This photo was downloaded from Naveen John’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose)

Naveen John, Arvind Panwar get gold and silver at 2019 South Asian Games

Indian cyclists, Naveen John and Arvind Panwar, finished first and second respectively in the Individual Time Trial (ITT) at the 2019 South Asian Games held in Nepal. Third place went to Avisha Mawatha of Sri Lanka. The timings were: Naveen – 00:49:22.250; Arvind – 00:49:29.500, Avisha: 52:15.540.

Based in Bengaluru, Naveen is one of the most experienced bicycle racers in the country. For more on Naveen please try these links: https://shyamgopan.com/2018/03/23/the-electrical-engineer/ and https://shyamgopan.com/2019/06/22/naveen-john-time-to-rewire/.

Mohit, Tsetan win at Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon

Mohit Rathore was winner overall and topper in the elite men’s category at the 2019 Indiabulls Home Loans Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon. He completed the full marathon in 02:24:15 ahead of Sukhdev Singh (02:31:36) and Dharmender (02:32:33).

Tsetan Dolkar, part of the team of Ladakhi runners supported by Rimo expeditions and visiting the races of the plains every winter, was winner in the women’s open category. She completed the full marathon in 03:10:27. Timtim Sharma (03:34:43) placed second and Jayalakshmi Balakrishnan (03:38:25), third. There was no elite women’s category this time. The men’s open category was won by Ranjit Singh (02:33:15), Nilesh Sudam Murumkar (02:41:43) and Kishanlal Kosriya (02:44:47) in that order.

In the elite men’s category of the half marathon, Anish Thapa (01:04:35) placed first, followed by Tirtha Pun (01:04:41) and Dinesh Kumar (01:04:45). In the corresponding category for women, the winner was Kiran Sahdev (01:17:49) followed by Komal Jagadale (01:18:21) and Nandini Gupta (01:19:10). The men’s open category in the half marathon was topped by Bhagesh Patil (01:09:18), followed by Ramesh Bhaurao Gavali (01:11:15) and Arun Dhansing Rathod (01:11:32). Aradhana Singh (01:28:42) finished first in the women’s open category of the half marathon. Babita Nishad (01:31:13) placed second and Madhuri Deshmukh (01:32:19), third.

Vasai-Virar is a city located a little over 50 kilometers north of Mumbai.

Work on main stadium of 2020 Olympics completed

Tokyo’s National Stadium, the main venue of next year’s Summer Olympic Games and host to the athletics competition, was officially completed end-November 2019.

Construction of the stadium, which will have capacity for about 60,000, began in December 2016. It was completed in 36 months at a cost of 157 billion yen (1.4 billion dollars). Besides the athletics competition scheduled over July 31 to August 10, the stadium will also host the opening and closing ceremonies, a report available on the website of World Athletics said.

Officially called the National Stadium, it will be known as Olympic Stadium during the Tokyo Games.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

AT A GLANCE / NOVEMBER 2019

Eliud Kipchoge (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Eliud Kipchoge, Dalilah Muhammad named World Athletes of the Year; Brother Colm O’Connell awarded for contribution to coaching

Eliud Kipchoge and Dalilah Muhammad were named the male and female World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2019, held at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Saturday (November 23), an official statement available on the website of World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations [IAAF]), said.

“ Kipchoge, the winner of the award last year, added to his phenomenal marathon CV in 2019. In April he captured his fourth victory at the London Marathon with a 2:02:37 course record, the third fastest performance of all time. The 35-year-old Kenyan followed up in October by blasting through the distance’s two-hour barrier with a 1:59:40.2 performance at the Ineos159 Challenge in Vienna.

“ Muhammad, 29, broke the world record in the 400m hurdles twice this year, first with a 52.20 performance at the US Championships in July to eclipse a mark which had stood since 2003. Muhammad broke it again at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, clocking 52.16 in one of the championships’ most eagerly-awaited finals to claim the world title for the first time. Muhammad also won world gold in the 4x400m relay and won five of her seven races,’’ the statement said.

Among other awards, the award for achievement in coaching went to Brother Colm O’Connell, the Irish missionary who made Iten in Kenya synonymous with long distance running. “ During a coaching career that has spanned more than four decades, O’Connell, an Irish missionary who has lived in Iten, Kenya, since 1976, has coached 25 world champions and four Olympic gold medallists, including Wilson Kipketer and David Rudisha, the World Athletes of the Year in 1997 and 2010, respectively. Kipketer presented him with his award,’’ the statement said.

Letesenbet Gidey (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Letesenbet Gidey sets new world best for women in 15km

Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey smashed the world best for women in 15km at the Zevenheuvelenloop (Seven Hills Run) in Nijmegen, Netherlands, held on November 17.

According to the race report available on the website of World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations [IAAF]) Gidey, silver medalist in 10,000m at the 2019 World Championships, clocked 44:21, more than a minute better than the previous world best of 45:37 Joyciline Jepkosgei set in Prague two years ago en route to her first world record in the half marathon.

Twenty one year-old Gidey covered the last 10 kilometers in a stunning 29:12, the fastest 10-kilometre stretch ever produced under any conditions, the report said.

In a related report, BBC pointed out that the 15km is rarely run and is not a discipline at the world championships or the Olympics.

Geoffrey Kamworor’s world record ratified

The new world record in the men’s half marathon set by Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor at the 2019 Copenhagen Half Marathon in September, has been ratified, World Athletics (formerly International Association of Athletics Federations / IAAF ) said in an official statement dated November 19, available on their website.

Kamworor had chopped 22 seconds from the previous record, coming tantalizingly close to breaking the event’s 58-minute barrier. The previous record of 58:23 was held by Zersenay Tadese; it was set in Lisbon in 2010.

Kamworor’s new record is 58:01.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Steeplechase, discus, triple jump – not glittering enough for Diamond League

Among the most grueling track disciplines out there, the 3000m steeplechase won’t feature in the 2020 IAAF Diamond League final.  Other disciplines in similar situation include discus throw and triple jump.

This follows the largest consumer survey by the League, which found that the top three most popular disciplines in the Diamond League are the 100m, long jump and high jump followed by pole vault, the 200m and 400m.  “ Popularity of athletes, head-to-head competitions and excitement of the individual competition were cited as reasons for the choice of the most popular events in the largest consumer survey into the disciplines hosted in the IAAF Diamond League. Representative online research carried out in China, France, South Africa and the USA; post-event surveys in Belgium, Great Britain and Switzerland and click-throughs on Diamond League social media videos during 2019 helped guide the Diamond League General Assembly, made up of all meeting directors, to decide which disciplines will be part of 2020 season,’’ an official statement dated November 6, 2019, available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

According to it, as a result of the research, and the decision taken earlier in the year that only 24 disciplines (12 male / 12 female) will form the core disciplines at all meetings, eight disciplines (4 male and 4 female) will not be contested during the 2020 Diamond League season. These disciplines are the discus, triple jump and 3000m steeplechase – three events that currently sit towards the bottom of the research conducted – and the 200m, which the Diamond League organizers felt would be too congested alongside the 100m, particularly in an Olympic Games year.

Following a detailed review of the schedule for the 90-minute broadcast window of the Diamond League, both the 200m and the 3000m steeplechase will be included in 10 meetings (5 male and 5 female) in the 2020 Diamond League season, including Oslo, Rome, and Doha. Two meetings will also feature discus and triple jump (1 female and 1 male). However, none of the four disciplines will feature in the Diamond League Final in 2020, the statement said.

“ Our objective is to create a faster-paced, more exciting global league that will be the showcase for our sport. A league that broadcasters want to show and fans want to watch. However, we understand the disappointment of those athletes in the disciplines not part of the 2020 Diamond League season,’’ the statement quoted IAAF Diamond League Chairman Sebastian Coe, as saying.

“ We want to thank the 10 Diamond League meetings which have found a way to include the 200m or the 3000m steeplechase (male and female) during the 2020 season and the four meetings hosting a discus competition or a triple jump competition. The Continental Tour, an enhanced global series of one-day meetings supporting the Diamond League, will integrate these eight disciplines to ensure athletes get opportunities to compete extensively and earn prize money. We will also work more closely with the athletes in these eight disciplines to help promote them and their events,’’ Coe added.

The highest scoring athlete in each of the eight disciplines named above will win a wild card into the World Championships. All disciplines will be reviewed at the end of the 2020 Diamond League season and decisions on the 24 disciplines for 2021 agreed.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

The full list of events in each Diamond League meeting will be released shortly. All meetings also have the opportunity to feature additional disciplines outside the 90-minute international broadcast window to cater to their domestic fans and athletics, which will be carried by domestic broadcasters. All meetings, including the final in Zurich, are also looking at innovation around disciplines that can be taken into city centers to attract new fans to the sport.

Details of the Continental Tour will be released later this month.

According to the statement, Diamond League disciplines 2020 (12 male and 12 female) are 100m, 100m/110m hurdles, 400m, 400m hurdles, 800m, 1500m, 3000m, long jump, high jump, pole vault, javelin and shot put.

Earlier this year the General Assembly, made up of all the Diamond League Meeting Directors, had agreed to bring together the very best one-day meetings in a high quality annual international circuit which gives athletes a compelling and rewarding reason to compete; a more consistent, action packed format for broadcasters; and provides fans with a persuasive reason to come back to the sport week in and week out to follow the star athletes as they gain points to qualify for an exciting end of season-final. At the General Assembly on 21 October it was agreed that 14 meetings and a final will make up the 2020 season, rather than the 12 plus a final originally envisaged, given the significant improvement that all meetings had achieved over the past two years and the signing of a title sponsor Wanda Sports, the largest sponsorship in athletics’ history.

Kenyan athletes disappointed

On November 8, the media reported that current world champions in the 3000m steeplechase, Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto and Beatrice Chipkoech, have expressed disappointment in the Diamond League’s decision. They said that the move could affect their career. At the Olympics, Kenya has been the most successful nation in steeplechase.

New world record in 5km-run

Kenya’s Robert Keter upstaged a quality field to win the Urban Trail Lille 5km on Saturday (November 9), taking seven seconds off the world record with his winning time of 13:22, the weekend round-up of road races (report dated November 10, 2019) available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

Lille is a city at the northern tip of France. According to the report, although the race organizers had hoped that Lille’s flat course may see a world record, such expectations were stacked higher well known athletes in the line-up, like world U20 5000m silver medallist Stanley Waithaka, world U20 cross-country champion Milkesa Mengesha and world indoor 3000m finalist Davis Kiplangat. The old mark was 13:29.

Nobody expected “ Keter to sprint away from the field in the closing stages to triumph in a world record time,’’ the report said. The new record is subject to the usual process of ratification. Keter was followed to finish line by Kenya’s Gilbert Kwemoi (13:28) and Stanley Waithaka (13:28), also of Kenya. In the women’s category, the winner was 17 year-old Mercy Jerop of Kenya who covered the distance in 16:21. France’s Fanny Pruvost, 23 years Jerop’s senior, was a distant second in 16:47.

As per the report, the 5km road distance was introduced as an official world record event in November 2017, with the inaugural record to be recognized after 1 January 2018 if the performances were equal to or better than 13:10 for men and 14:45 for women. “ If no such performances were achieved in 2018, the best performances of 2018 (13:30 by Bernard Kibet and 14:48 by Caroline Kipkurui) would be recognized on 1 January 2019. Seven weeks into 2019, Julien Wanders and Sifan Hassan bettered those marks in Monaco by clocking 13:29 and 14:44, times that have since been ratified as world records. Two months later, Edward Cheserek equaled Wanders’ mark at the Carlsbad 5000. Many athletes, however, have gone quicker than 13:22 before the 5km became an official world record event. The fastest time ever recorded for the distance remains Sammy Kipketer’s 13:00 clocking in Carlsbad in 2000,’’ the report said.

Lelisa Desisa, Ruth Chepngetich get 2019 AIMS Best Marathon Runner award

Lelisa Desisa (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

World marathon champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya are the male and female recipients of the 2019 ` Best Marathon Runner’ award from the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), a statement dated November 8, available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

“ Their achievements were given global recognition on Friday (8) in Athens, the birthplace of the marathon, at the seventh annual AIMS Best Marathon Runner (BMR) Gala. Desisa and Chepngetich were chosen by the AIMS athletes’ nomination committee as the outstanding candidates for the 2019 awards based upon their performances over the past 12 months,’’ the statement said.

Desisa won the 2018 New York City Marathon before winning the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 with timing of 2:10:40. Chepngetich is also a world marathon champion, having won in Doha with timing of 2:32:43. In the past year she also added wins at the Istanbul Marathon, the Dubai Marathon (in 2:17:08, the second-fastest time of the year), the Istanbul Half Marathon, the Seiryu Half Marathon and the Media Maraton de Bogota.

According to the statement, the Xiamen Marathon was presented with the AIMS Green Award, becoming the first Chinese race to win the accolade. The race organizers have demonstrated significant effort regarding climate change, waste reduction and environmental awareness. Since 2015, the Xiamen Marathon has donated more than 130,000 saplings to be planted, creating the ` Xiamen Forest of Love.’

This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of the IAAF World Championships and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

The Harmony Geneva Marathon for Unicef was the 2019 recipient of the AIMS Social Award in recognition of their charitable efforts. Since 2010 the Harmony Geneva Marathon has been in partnership with Unicef, supporting the program ` WASH: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene’ and their sustainable development goal of ensuring access to water sanitation for all. To date the race has financed the installation of 1000 water pumps in different countries. From 2020, the event will support UNICEF Malawi to provide solar water pumps – a reliable, sustainable, user friendly and green technology solution for rural communities. In addition, the race manages a clothes collection point in its marathon village in association with the organization Bilifou to benefit young people in Burkino Faso. This partnership has seen more than 1000kg of clothes collected. Other activities with disabled people and refugees are managed by the organization in order to include everyone in the event.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

AT A GLANCE / OCTOBER 2019

Bijay Deka

Bijay Deka, Laxmi win 2019 Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon

Bijay Deka is overall winner of the 2019 edition of Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon with a timing of 2:35:27.

He was followed by Koji Tanaka in second position with finishing time of 2:40:48. In third position was Mikiyas Yemata Lemlemu, whi finished in 2:45:08.

Earlier this year, Bijay who is from Assam, had topped the amateur category at the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

In the women’s race in Bengaluru, Laxmi crossed the finish line first with timing of 3:24:10. Shreya Deepak came in second with a timing of 3:36:38. In third position was Bengaluru-based runner Shilpi Sahu with a timing of 3:40:47.

In the half marathon segment, Isaac Kembol Mhemui finished in 1:12:04 to secure the winning position. Anbu Kumar came in second in 1:13:11 and Dhanesh came in third in 1:13:23.

Among women, Preenu Yadav was the winner with a timing of 1:28:56. Aasa T.P. came in second with a 1:29:28 finish and Smitha D.R. came in third with a timing of 1:33:46.

Weather was unusually warm for Bengaluru, said Shilpi Sahu, who finished third overall among women in the marathon. According to her, many runners struggled in the full marathon category because of the humidity.

She said she was surprised with her podium position. “ I can tolerate humidity and warm weather but my training mileage and long runs were not sufficient for this race,’’ she told this blog.

A barefoot runner, she did find some stretches along the route tough.

Nike Oregon Project closed down

Shoe giant Nike has shut down the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) after its head coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years on grounds of doping violation.

NOP’s website and social media channel have been taken down, BBC reported, October 12.

Salazar’s ban followed an investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency as well as a court battle.

Salazar plans to appeal against the ruling and Nike has said that it will support the appeal, the report added.

According to Wikipedia, NOP was a group created by Nike in 2001 in Beaverton, Oregon to promote American long distance running.

Germans take top honors at Hawaii Ironman World Championship; Jan Frodeno sets new course record

Triathlete Jan Frodeno of Germany set a new course record at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on October 12, 2019.

He completed the three disciplines – swimming, cycling and running – in seven hours, 51 minutes and 13 seconds, bettering the course record by over three minutes. The previous course record was set by the 2018 champion Patrick Lange, also from Germany.

For Frodeno, it was his third win at the world championship. The 2008 Olympic champion was followed by American Tim O’Donnell, who finished the course in 7:59:41. Germany’s Sebastian Kienle came in third with at 8:02:04.

The women’s race was won by Anne Haug. She is the first German woman to win the world championships in Hawaii.

Anne Haug finished the course in 8:40:10. British triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay claimed the second spot with finish timing of 8:46:44 and Australian Sarah Crawley came in third with 8:48:13.

The race comprises 3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers of cycling and 42.2 kilometers of running.

The defending champion from 2018, Patrick Lange, quit during the cycling segment due to fever.

Indian men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams fail to make it to the final

India’s 4×400 relay teams – men and women – didn’t make it past the heats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Both heats happed on Day 9 of the event.

From the men’s heats, USA, Colombia, Italy, Great Britain, Jamaica, Belgium, Trinidad & Tobago and France made it to the final. The Indian team with a timing of 3:03.09 minutes placed seventh in a field of eight in heat 2. Overall, they finished 12th from among 15 teams that finished (Botswana was disqualified).

In the women’s heat, teams from Jamaica, Poland, Canada, USA, Great Britain, Ukraine, Netherlands and Belgium made it to the final. The Indian team finishing in 3:29.42 (a season’s best) placed sixth in a field of eight in heat 1. Overall, they were 11th from 15 teams that started.

It is worth noting that coming into the heats, both Indian teams had personal bests (PB) better than some of the toppers that eventually moved to the final. In the men’s category, the PB of the Indian men’s team (3:00.91) was better than that of Colombia and Italy. In the women’s category, the PB of the Indian women’s team (3:26.89) was better than the PBs of Netherlands and Belgium. In terms of season’s best (SB – it indicates whether a team maybe in peak form or not), the Indian men’s team’s SB of 3:02.59 wasn’t as good as that of any of the finalists. Same was the story on the women’s side.

Unlike what happened to the men’s and women’s teams, earlier in the Doha world championships, India’s 4x400m mixed relay team had made it to the finals. They finished seventh in a field of eight teams in the final with a season’s best timing of 3:15.77. Interestingly in the mixed relay, India’s original SB (that is, pre-world championship) of 3:16.47 was better than that of Jamaica, Great Britain, Brazil and Belgium all of who were among the eight teams (including India) that moved into the final. In the heat, India qualified for the final with a new SB of 3:16.14.

Irfan, Devender finish 27th and 36th in Doha

India’s Irfan K. T placed 27th and Devender Singh 36th in the men’s 20km walk at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

Altogether 52 race-walkers commenced the event held in warm, humid conditions; 32 degrees Celsius and 73 per cent humidity going by information available on the website of IAAF. Irfan finished in 1:35:21; Devender in 1:41:48. The race was won by Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi who took gold in 1:26:34. He was followed to the finish line by authorized neutral athlete Vasiliy Mizinov in 1:26:49. Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom took the bronze in 1:27:00. Five athletes were disqualified. Seven did not finish the race.

“ I used a towel around my neck, and it made the race a bit easier. When I started to speed up after 7km I expected athletes to follow me. I was surprised and lucky nobody did. I wanted to walk faster in the final 3km but it was impossible. I hope this medal will give me a lot more confidence for Tokyo,” Yamanishi was quoted as saying in IAAF’s race report.

Irfan came to the 2019 world championships having already qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the 20km race-walk. He was the first Indian athlete to qualify for the upcoming Olympics; he did that clocking 1:20:57 at the Asian Race Walking Championships, held in Nomi, Japan, where he placed fourth.

Avinash Sable (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of Athletics Federation of India [AFI]. It has been cropped for use here. No copyright infringement intended)

Avinash Sable sets new national record, makes it to the final in Doha

Avinash Sable has set a new national record in the 3000m steeplechase.

Running in the third heat of the discipline at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, he crossed the finish line in 8:25:23 minutes, an improvement on the national record of 8:28:94 he had set earlier in March 2019 at the Federation Cup in Patiala.

The new record of October 1 was despite two setbacks Sable suffered on the steeplechase course for no fault of his. The incidents were successfully appealed by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) paving the way for the athlete’s eventual inclusion in the final. AFI has tweeted the same.

Soon after the heat commenced, Takele Nigate of Ethiopia (he is the junior world champion in 3000m steeplechase) stumbled and fell taking down a couple of other athletes as well, among them, Sable. While all of them got up and resumed racing, some laps later, Nigate stumbled and slammed into the barrier at the water jump. Once again Sable was nearby. Nigate going down broke his rhythm and he had to pause and get over the barrier.

In spite of both these reversals, Sable managed to work his way back into the lead cluster dominated by the two Kenyan athletes – Conseslus Kipruto and Benjamin Kigen – and Hillary Bor of USA. An athlete passed over quickly in the pre-race introduction during race telecast, Sable’s advance to the lead group came in for mention in the race commentary.

The third heat was won by Kipruto, the defending champion, in 8:19:20 followed by Kigen and Bor; all of them automatically moved up to the finals. Sable finished seventh clocking 8:25:23, a new national record.  As per information on the IAAF website, Sable was overall twentieth in a field of 44 finishers spread across three heats. He did not initially qualify for the finals. However the AFI successfully appealed the setbacks he faced – they amounted to his passage being blocked for no fault of his – and Sable was included in the line-up for the finals, media reports quoting AFI’s tweet on the subject, said.

Hailing from Mandwa in Beed district, Maharashtra, Sable is the first steeplechaser from India to qualify for the IAAF World Athletics Championships after Dina Ram in 1991. His qualification for Doha happened at the March 2019 Federation Cup in Patiala.

P. U. Chitra gets a PB but fails to make it to semi-finals

Running in the second heat of the women’s 1500m at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, P. U. Chitra managed a personal best (PB) but couldn’t qualify for the semi-finals.

On October 2, Chitra finished in 4:11:10 minutes, placing eighth out of 12 athletes running that second heat. Overall, the Indian runner ended up 30 in a field of 35. The second heat was topped by Rababe Arafi of Morocco, who covered the distance in 4:08:32.

Chitra’s previous personal best was 4:11:55.

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, she had won gold in the same discipline at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships held in Doha in April. Before that she had secured a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games and gold medals at the 2017 Asian Championships and 2016 South Asian Games.

No semi-final ticket for Jinson Johnson

Jinson Johnson finished tenth in the second heat of the men’s 1500m at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha.

He won’t be in the semi-final.

Johnson appeared to go strong till the last lap of the race, when he began to fade and steadily slip to the rear of the lead group of runners. The second heat was topped by Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya who clocked 3:36:82. Johnson finished in 3:39:86. He placed tenth in a field of 14 runners in the second heat. His timing in Doha was way outside his personal best in the discipline; 3:35:24 achieved September 1, 2019 in Berlin.

There was a fair amount of pushing and jostling in the heat Johnson was part of. In the first lap itself, the race commentator said that one athlete had taken a stumble. Soon after the bell for the final lap was sounded, Ethiopia’s Teddese Lemi maneuvered past Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen to join Cheruiyot in the lead. The Norwegian runner was seen putting out his hand and making contact with the Ethiopian, who fell a stride or so later. The commentator pointed out that it appeared an incident worthy of appeal. The Ethiopian who got up and continued to run, eventually completed in eleventh position.

The top six athletes from the heat qualified automatically for the semi-final.

Overall, across three heats in the men’s 1500m, 43 athletes took to the track on October 4, hoping to qualify for the semi-finals. Johnson’s timing placed him 34th in that larger field.

Nominees for World Athlete of the Year – male and female – announced  

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has announced 11 male athletes and 11 female athletes as nominees for World Athlete of the Year in their respective gender category.

The award will be given at the 2019 World Athletics Awards ceremony in Monaco on November 23, separate official statements issued October 14 (for the male category) and 15 (for the female category), said.

The male nominees are: Donavan Brazier (USA): won world 800m title in a championship record of 1:42.34,won Diamond League title, won four of his five outdoor 800m races / Christian Coleman (USA): won world 100m title in a world-leading 9.76, won world 4x100m title in a world-leading 37.10, won four of his five races at 100m / Joshua Cheptegei (UGA): won world cross-country title in Aarhus, won world 10,000m title in a world-leading 26:48.36, won Diamond League 500m title / Timothy Cheruyiot (KEN): won world 1500m title, won Diamond League 1500m title, won 10 of his 11 outdoor races across all distances / Steven Gardiner (BAH): won world 400m title in 43.48, undefeated all year over 400m, ran world-leading 32.26 indoors over 300m / Sam Kendricks (USA): won world pole vault title, cleared a world-leading 6.06m to win the US title, won 12 of his 17 outdoor competitions, including the Diamond League final / Eliud Kipchoge (KEN): won London Marathon in a course record of 2:02:37, ran 1:59:40.2 for 42.195km in Vienna / Noah Lyles (USA): won world 200m and 4x100m titles, ran a world-leading 19.50 in Lausanne to move to fourth on the world all-time list, won Diamond League titles at 100m and 200m / Daniel Stahl (SWE): won the world discus title, threw a world-leading 71.86m to move to fifth on the world all-time list, won 13 of his 16 competitions, including the Diamond League final / Christian Taylor (USA): won the world triple jump title, won Diamond League title, won 10 of his 14 competitions / Karsten Warholm (NOR): won the world 400m hurdles title, undefeated indoors and outdoors at all distances, including at the Diamond League final and the European Indoor Championships, clocked world-leading 46.92, the second-fastest time in history.

The female nominees are:  Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN): won world 3000m steeplechase title in a championship record of 8:57.84, won Diamond League title, won seven of her eight steeplechase races / Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM): won world 100m and 4x100m titles in world-leading times of 10.71 and 41.44, won Pan-American 200m title, won seven of her 10 races at 100m / Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR): won world heptathlon title in a world-leading 6981, undefeated in all combined events competitions, indoors and outdoors, won European indoor pentathlon title with a world-leading 4983 / Sifan Hassan (NED): won world 1500m and 10,000m titles in world-leading times of 3:51.95 and 30:17.62, won Diamond League 1500m and 5000m titles, broke world mile record with 4:12.33 in Monaco / Brigid Kosgei (KEN): set a world record of 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon, won the London Marathon, ran a world-leading 1:05:28 for the half marathon and 1:04:28 on a downhill course / Mariya Lasitskene (ANA): won world high jump title with 2.04m, jumped a world-leading 2.06m in Ostrava, won 21 of her 23 competitions, indoors and outdoors / Malaika Mihambo (GER): won world long jump title with a world-leading 7.30m, won Diamond League title, undefeated outdoors / Dalilah Muhammad (USA): broke world record with 52.20 at the US Championships, improved her own world record to win the world 400m hurdles title in 52.16, won world 4x400m title / Salwa Eid Naser (BRN):  won world 400m title in 48.14, the third-fastest time in history, won Diamond League title and three gold medals at the Asian Championships, undefeated at 400m outdoors / Hellen Obiri (KEN): won world cross-country title in Aarhus, won world 5000m title in a championship record of 14:26.72, ran a world-leading 14:20.36 for 5000m in London / Yulimar Rojas (VEN): won world triple jump title with 15.37m, jumped world-leading 15.41m to move to second on the world all-time list, won nine of her 12 competitions, including the Pan-American Games.

A three-way voting process will determine the finalists. The IAAF Council’s vote will count for 50 per cent of the result, while the IAAF Family’s votes and the public votes will each count for 25 per cent of the final result, the statements said.

Valary Jemeli Aiyabei sets new course record in Frankfurt

Kenya’s Valary Jemeli Aiyabei won the women’s category of the 2019 Mainova Frankfurt Marathon in a course record time of 2:19:10.

The 28-year-old Kenyan was paced by her husband Kenneth Tarus until he had to drop out at 15km because of stomach problems. Aiyabei however continued, going through halfway in 1:07:42. She eventually crossed the line in 2:19:10, improving the course record by 86 seconds, the race report available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Fikre Tefera broke clear from his compatriot Dawit Wolde to win by just two seconds in 2:07:08.

In the women’s category, Ethiopia’s Megertu Kebede took second place in a PB of 2:21:10. Defending champion Meskerem Assefa finished third in 2:22:14 ahead of European 10,000m champion Lonah Salpeter of Israel, who came home in 2:23:11. Among men, Wolde finished second behind Fikre and two seconds ahead of Aweke Yimer of Bahrain, in what was the closest finish ever in Frankfurt, the report said.

Teferi wins Valencia Half Marathon; Sifan Hassan falls, sees record hopes slip away

Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi won the women’s category of the Medio Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP, in 1:05:32, a new Ethiopian record.

There was much attention on the event given Sifan Hassan of Netherlands reported to be targeting a new world record in the half marathon. However, at exactly 22:15 on the clock, Hassan tripped and fell hard, losing ground on the leaders. Even though the pacemakers didn’t seem to notice her fall, the European record-holder soon re-joined the lead group, the race report available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said. She finished second in 1:05:53. Kenya’s Joan Chelimo placed third in 1:06:09.

Ahead of the event, Hassan had sounded caution with regard to expectations of a new world record. She wasn’t sure how well her body may have recovered after the recent IAAF world championships in Doha.

In the men’s race at Valencia, Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha won in 59:05. He was followed to the finish by Kenya’s Benard Ngeno who placed second in 59:07. Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer placed third in 59:09.

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

AT A GLANCE / SEPTEMBER 2019

Jinson Johnson (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose)

Jinson Johnson sets new national record in 1500m

Indian middle distance runner Jinson Johnson set a new national record in 1500m for men when he placed second in the discipline at ISTAF Berlin on Sunday (September 1, 2019).

Gold went to Joshua Thompson of the US. Cornelius Tuwei of Kenya placed third.

A specialist in the 800m and 1500m, Jinson clocked three minutes, 35.24 seconds in Berlin, media reports said. The earlier national record was 3:37.62, also in his name; it was set at a competition in Netherlands in June.

With Sunday’s second place finish, Jinson has qualified to participate in the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships due in Doha, Qatar, later this month, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) confirmed in a tweet.

According to Wikipedia, the Internationales Stadionfest (ISTAF) is an annual track and field athletics meet held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Since 2010, the event has been part of the IAAF World Challenge meetings, the second tier of global one day athletics events.

Jinson also holds the national record in 800m; 1:45.65 set at the National Inter-State Championships held in Guwahati in June 2018.

This photo was downloaded from the Facbook page of the IAAF World Championships and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich is world champion in women’s marathon

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich struck gold in the women’s marathon at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships which got underway in Doha on September 27.

Running in hot and humid weather conditions, she covered the distance in 2:32:43.

It was the first time a marathon was being run at midnight at a world championship. The choice of that hour was to beat the region’s warm weather. “ On this occasion the challenge was about endurance rather than speed as the race began in temperatures officially estimated at between 30 and 32.7 Centigrade, and humidity of 73 per cent,’’ a report on the IAAF website about the 25 year old-Kenyan athlete’s run, said.

According to it, Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo took silver with timing of 2:33:46 while bronze went to Namibia’s Helalia Johannes, who finished in 2:34:15.

Earlier this year, Ruth Chepngetich had topped the women’s segment of the 2019 Dubai Marathon, with finish time of 2:17:08. She has a personal best of 1:05:30 in the half marathon and 31:12 over the 10 kilometers.

Sebastian Coe, president, IAAF (This photo was downloaded from the IAAF website).

Sebastian Coe gets second term as IAAF president, Adille Sumariwala reelected to IAAF Council

Sebastian Coe has been re-elected to a second term as president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), a tweet from the apex body for world athletics, said on September 25, 2019.

He was elected unopposed.

Ximena Restrepo has been voted the first female vice president of the IAAF.

Joining her as IAAF vice presidents are Sergey Bubka, Geoffrey Gardner and Nawaf Bin Mohammed Al Saud.

The newly elected IAAF Council members include Hiroshi Yokokawa, Antti Pihlakoski, Anna Riccardi, Nan Wang, Adille Sumariwalla, Nawal El Moutawakel, Abby Hoffman, Sylvia Barlag, Alberto Juantorena, Willie Banks, Raul Chapado, Dobromir Karamarinov and Beatrice Ayikoru, further  tweets by on the subject by IAAF, said.

AFI announces national team for 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) selection committee has picked a 25-member national team including 16 men and nine women for the 2019 IAAF World Championships to be held in Doha, Qatar, from September 27 to October 6.

According to a statement from AFI (dated September 8), the team is as follows:

Men: Jabir MP (400m hurdles), Jinson Johnson (1500m), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), K T Irfan and Devender Singh (20km race walk), Gopi T (marathon), Sreeshankar M (long jump), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put), Shivpal Singh (javelin throw), Muhammed Anas, Nirmal Noah Tom, Alex Antony, Amoj Jacob, KS Jeevan, Dharun Ayyasamy and Harsh Kumar (4 x 400m men’s & mixed relay).

Women: PU Chitra (1500m),Annu Rani (javelin throw), Hima Das, Vismaya V K, Poovamma M R, Jisna Mathew, Revathi V, SubhaVenkatsan, Vithya R (4 x 400m women’s & mixed relay).

While 400m runner Arokia Rajiv is unavailable due to injury, the selectors decided to discuss the case of javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra who is undergoing rehabilitation program after an elbow surgery, at a later stage. The selection committee approved the names of sprinters Dutee Chand (100m women), Archana Suseentran (200m women) and high jumper Tejaswin Shankar subject to invitation from IAAF based on their world rankings. The committee also decided to conduct confirmatory trial for quarter miler Anjali Devi for selection in the team in individual women’s 400m. The trial will be conducted on September 21 at NS-NIS Patiala.

The AFI selection committee meeting, chaired by Olympian Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, was attended by AFI President Adille J Sumariwalla, Chief Coach Bahadur Singh, Bahadur Singh Saggu, Krishna Poonia, Praveen Jolly,UdayPrabhu amd Paramjit Singh. Former Chief Coach JS Saini and Deputy Chief Coach Radhakrishnan Nair were special invitees, the statement said.

This photo was downloaded from the Ladakh Marathon Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose.

Shabir Hussain, Jigmet Dolma take top honors in 2019 Ladakh Marathon

Shabir Hussain and Jigmet Dolma were winners of the men’s and women’s race respectively at the 2019 edition of Ladakh Marathon, held on September 8.

In the men’s race, Shabir Hussain breasted the finish tape in two hours, 56 minutes and 51 seconds. He was followed by Jigmet Norboo, who finished in 2:58:58. In third place was Manzoor Hussain with a timing of 3:04:37 hours.

Among women, Jigmet Dolma was the winner with a timing of 3:20:02 hours. Tsetan Dolkar placed second finishing in 3:22:37. In third place was Namgyal Lhamo, who clocked 4:09:38.

In the men’s half marathon segment, Suman Gurung won, crossing the finish line in 1:19:48 hours. Rajkumar Serma came in second with a timing of 1:20:51. Nawang Tsering finished third with a timing of 1:22:34.

In the women’s half marathon, the winner was Tashi Ladol (1:36:27). Stanzin Chondol (1:36:52) placed second and Disket Dolma (1:37:51), third.

Khardung La Challenge: Shabir Hussain, Christena Walter win

Shabir Hussain and Christena Walter were winners of the men’s and women’s race at the 2019 edition of the 72 kilometer-long Khardung La Challenge in Ladakh.

The race starts at Khardung village and about 60 kilometers of the route is above 4,000 meters.

Shabir Hussain finished the distance in six hours, 53 minutes and 34 seconds. Stanzin Norboo was the runner-up finishing just five seconds behind  the winner in 6:53:39 hours. In third place was Rigzin Norboo who finished the ultra-distance in 6:54:31 hours.

Among women, Christena Walter from Ireland was the winner finishing the race in 10:32:44 hours. In second place was Ashwini G, who finished in 10:39:25 hours. Rephica Becky Pde finished the race in third position with a timing of 11:36:50.

The event held on September 6, 2019 had a record number of 120 runners finishing the race within cut-off timing, the organizers of the event said.

Pau Capell (This photo was downloaded from Twitter feed of UTMB)

Pau Capell of Spain, Courtney Dauwalter of US, win 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

Spanish long-distance runner Pau Capell and American Courtney Dauwalter were winners of the men’s and women’s race at the 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).

UTMB is a single-stage mountain ultra-marathon; it is among the world’s best-known events of its type.

Pau Capell finished the 171 kilometer-UTMB course in 20 hours, 19 minutes and seven seconds.

Xavier Thevenard of France finished in 21:07:56 hours, nearly 49 minutes after Capell. Scott Hawker of New Zealand placed third with a timing of 21:48:04 hours.

In the women’s race, Courtney Dauwalter won with a timing of 24:34:26 hours. Kristin Berglund of Sweden finished in 25:34:12, an hour behind the winner. Spain’s Maite Maiora Elizondo ended in third position with a timing of 25:41:30.

In the overall ranking, Courtney’s position was 21.

In the 101 kilometer-CCC race (Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix), the overall winner was Spain’s Luis Alberto Hernando Alzaga who finished the race in 10:28:49 hours. He was followed by Thibaut Garrivier of France who finished in 10:39:01. In third position was Jiri Cipa of Czech Republic. He finished the race in 10:45:37.

Courtney Dauwalter (This photo was downloaded from the Twitter feed of UTMB)

In CCC’s women’s race, Ragna Debats was the winner finishing in 12:10:33 hours. The runner-up was Amanda Basham of United States. She finished in 12:27:06. In third position was Camille Bruyas of France (12:34:26).

Spain’s Pablo Villa Gonzalez was the winner of the men’s race in the 145 kilometer-TDS race, completing it in 18:03:06 hours. In second position was Dmitry Mityaev of Russia (18:16:16) and in third position was Ludovic Pommeret of France (18:37:13).

In TDS women’s race, the winner was Audrey Tanguy of France (21:36:15). In second position was Hillary Allen of United States finishing in 21:52:46 hours and in third position was Kathrin Gotz of Switzerland (23:46:37).

Media technology at athletics events set to grow with 2019 Doha world championships

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), with its technology partners and suppliers, will be introducing an array of new cameras to provide innovative angles on the competition and behind-the-scenes pictures, at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships due in Doha from September 27, 2019.

In collaboration with long-standing timing partner Seiko, IAAF Productions will launch the world-first technology of Block Cam at Khalifa International Stadium. Two miniature cameras have been installed in each starting block which will provide a new dimension to the coverage of the 100m and sprint hurdles, broadcasting pictures of athletes’ faces in the moments before they hear the starting pistol and capturing the explosion of energy as the athletes leave the blocks, an IAAF statement said.

According to the statement, the suite of new cameras being used by IAAF Productions will also include body cameras placed on officials (in the call room and officiating on the race walks course), drones, rail and wire cameras on the back straight, a rail camera in the tunnel between the warm-up track and stadium, a super slo-mo remote camera in the discus cage and hand-held cameras for athletes to take on victory laps.

The 2019 World Championships will also see a quantum leap forward in graphic production and analysis, using the combined expertise of Seiko, Hawkeye, Angular Velocity and Deltatre.

These will display the maximum speed reached by sprinters during a race, their finishing speed, the speed of take off in long jump, triple jump and pole vault, the distance achieved in each of the three phases of the triple jump, and the speed and angle of release of the long throws.

“ We’ve embraced innovation throughout the Championships, showing more behind-the-scenes footage from the moment the athletes arrive at the stadium, through their whole journey to the end of the Event – and with more than 130 cameras inside and outside the stadium, we can’t wait to broadcast these unique Championships to a prospective audience of more than a billion people,’’ Lord added.

India’s Ministry of Sports to create National Centres of Excellence

The Ministry of Sports will create 20 National Centres of Excellence to prepare athletes for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

According to media reports, each such centre will offer funds for four to six specific sports. The Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, has urged state governments and corporates to develop sports centres.

Twenty facilities of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have been identified as National Centers of Excellence. The centres are in Patiala, Trivandrum, Chandigarh, Sonepat, Lucknow, Guwahati, Imphal, Kolkata, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Gandhinagar plus Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Indira Gandhi Stadium, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium,  Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee Swimming Pool Complex, all in Delhi; National Water Sports Academy (Khelo India), Alleppey, National Boxing Academy (Khelo India), Rohtak and National Wrestling Academy (Khelo India), Aurangabad, media reports said.

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

AT A GLANCE / AUGUST 2019

Gopi Thonakal (This photo was downloaded from the event’s Instagram page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Gopi Thonakal, Phoolan Pal win gold in 10,000 meters at Lucknow inter-state meet

Gopi Thonakal of Kerala and Phoolan Pal of Uttar Pradesh won gold in the 10,000 meters race for men and women respectively, at the 59th National Inter State Seniors Athletics Championships 2019 held in Lucknow.

Gopi completed the race in 30:52:75 minutes. He was followed by Arjun Kumar of Uttar Pradesh for the silver medal (30:55:71). The bronze medal was claimed by Vikaram Bangriya of Goa (30:59:98).

In the women’s race, Phoolan Pal finished first in 37:00:52. Kavita Yadav of Karnataka got the silver medal (37:03:16) and Kiran Sahdev (37:10:58) of Maharashtra won the bronze medal.

Procedures made easy / India opens up 137 peaks to foreign climbers, trekkers

As per a circular dated August 13, 2019, India’s Ministry of Home has opened up 137 peaks in the Himalaya for trekking and mountaineering by foreigners. On its website, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) noted on the development, “ long years of efforts by IMF have paid off.’’

The move is essentially a streamlining of existing procedures. Related news reports said that previously foreigners had to get permission from the defence ministry and home ministry to attempt these peaks. Now with the new circular, they can directly apply to the IMF for permits.

Of the 137 peaks opened up for visit by foreigners, 51 are in Uttarakhand, 24 in Sikkim, 15 in Jammu & Kashmir and 47 in Himachal Pradesh. The list includes India’s highest peak Kanchenjunga (8586m), considered holy in Sikkim and therefore not usually attempted from the Indian side. Of four routes to the mountain’s summit, three are from Nepal. According to Wikipedia, the climbing route from Sikkim was successfully used only thrice. There are other peaks too in similar category. The modalities pertaining to such issues should be worked out going ahead, a senior IMF official said when contacted.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

Nine-member team to represent India at IAU 100k Asia Oceania Championships

A nine-member team has been chosen from among Indian ultra-runners to represent the country at the 2019 IAU 100 kilometer Asia Oceania Championships to be held on November 23, 2019 at Aqaba, Jordan, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said today (August 9) in a statement.

The team includes Anjali Saraogi, Darishisha Langjuh and Gunjan Khurana among women and Abhinav Jha, Deepak Bandbe, Sandeep Kumar, Suraj Chada, Tlanding Wahlang and Vikas Malik among men. Hemant Beniwal has been named as stand by for the men’s team, the statement said.

According to it, AFI had set standards, which included specific cut off times for races such as 50 miles, Comrades Marathon (up and down run), 12-hour and 100k. Achievements in a period of 18 months before the date of the Championship were considered and AFI specified guidelines for comparing performance across different races.

Races done during the period of May 22, 2018 till August 5, 2019 were considered.

Also, the athletes meeting the qualification standards were required to have run an ultra-distance race as proof of fitness between February 22, 2019 and August 5, 2019.

The team heading for the 2019 IAU 100 kilometer Asia Oceania Championships is sponsored by IDBI Federal Life Insurance, the statement said.

From the press conference of August 9 (Photo: Latha Venkatraman)

Over 300 runners to participate in the sixth edition of Mumbai Ultra

The 2019 edition of Mumbai Ultra – 12 Hour Run to be held on August 15, 2019, is likely to see participation by over 300 runners.

For the first time, the city’s original 12-hour run, now in its sixth year, will feature timing chips for runners.

Runners are expected to start running from 5 AM and continue to do so until 5 PM in a loop from Mumbai’s Shivaji Park to Worli Sea Face. The 12-kilometer loop will be shortened this year to about 10 kilometers because of the Coastal Road Project. Due to ongoing work on the project some portions of the original route are off limits, the organizers of the event said at a press briefing today, August 9.

Runners will have to undergo mandatory medical check-ups at the end of each loop. There will be four aid stations along the route. Apart from food and water these stations will also have physiotherapists at hand to help any runner requiring such intervention, the organizers said.

The theme of Mumbai Ultra this year is Run over Cancer and Wellness over Illness.

Coach, Daniel Vaz, is race director for the 2019 edition of the event.

Illustration: Shyam G Menon

AFI selects team to represent India at 2019 IAU 24 Hour World Championships

Ten ultra-runners – six men and four women – have been chosen to represent India at the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships to be held at Albi, France over October 26-27, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said in a statement.

The women in the team will be Apoorva Chaudhary, Hemlata, Priyanka Bhatt and Shyamala Sathyanarayana. The men include Ullas Narayana, Binay Sah, Sunil Sharma, Pranaya Mohanty, Kanan Jain and Chanderkant.

As per AFI standards, the athlete is required to have run a minimum of 205 kilometers (men) and 165 kilometers (women) in a 24-hour race in a period of 18 months before the date of the championship.

Races completed during the period April 26, 2018 to July 31, 2019 were considered. Further, as proof of fitness, athletes meeting the qualification standards were expected to have run an ultra-race between January 26, 2019 and July 31, 2019, AFI said.

The improving performance of Indian ultra and trail runners has prompted AFI and NEB Sports to bid for hosting the 2020 IAU 24-hour and 2021 IAU 100 k Asia and Oceania Championships in India, the statement said.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

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.)

AT A GLANCE / JUNE 2019

P. U. Chitra (This image was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

P. U. Chitra strikes gold in Nijmegen meet, Jinson Johnson sets new national record

P. U. Chitra of India won gold in the women’s 1500m at the Next Generation Athletics Meet in Nijmegen, Netherlands, the media reported Sunday, June 16.

She clocked 4:13:52.

In April 2019, Chitra was in the news for winning the women’s 1500m at the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha.

In Doha she had registered a timing of 4:14:56.

She had won the women’s 1500m at the 2017 edition of Asian Athletics Championships as well.

Indian athlete Jinson Johnson broke his national record in the men’s 1500m at the Nijmegen meet.

He covered the distance in 3:37:62 to finish sixth in the field.

Ajay Kumar Saroj finished in 3:40:39 to place eleventh.

Jim Walmsley wins 2019 Western States in record time

Jim Walmsley has won the 2019 edition of Western States Endurance Run (WSER) held over June 29-30 in California, in 14 hours nine minutes 28 seconds. Doing so, he broke his own earlier record by 21 minutes. The old record was 14 hours 30 minutes four seconds. With improvements to the WSER course record twice in the past calendar year and a half marathon done in 1:04:00, Walmsley has qualified for the 2020 Olympic Marathon trials, media reports said. WSER spans 100 miles. In early May, Walmsley was in the news for setting a new mark (albeit not official) over 50 miles, which he covered in 4:50:07. This was done at the Hoka One One Project Carbon X 100K Challenge.

Kipchoge sub-2 marathon attempt to be in Vienna

Austria’s capital city, Vienna, will be venue for Eliud Kipchoge’s upcoming attempt to so a sub two hour-marathon, news reports said on June 28.

The project titled Ineos 1:59 Challenge will be held in October 2019.

The attempt will be on a multi-lap course at The Prater, a park in Vienna.

It has been described as a fast, flat course with tree cover.

A wake-up call for India’s city marathons

The world of mass participation marathons in India, took a hit with the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) informing that Jyoti Singh had tested positive for a banned substance.

The athlete, who was winner in the women’s elite half marathon at the 2019 New Delhi Marathon, was provisionally suspended on May 14.

On June 17 as news of NADA’s findings appeared in the media (there were athletes from other disciplines too who were in trouble), reports quoting the race organizer said that if the charges are true then Jyoti will lose her medal.

Organizers of mass participation marathons, this blog spoke to, couldn’t recall an earlier instance when the consequence of athletes violating doping norms had been felt in India’s growing city marathon space.

According to them, the NADA comes into the picture at city marathons when elite contingents are due to run and the timings registered are meant to work as proof of eligibility for them to participate at major international events. The New Delhi Marathon falls in this category, as does the Mumbai Marathon and some other leading city marathons / distance running events in India. “ We have close to 1400 marathons in India now and elite teams run at perhaps 30 or so of these events,’’ a senior official at one company that organizes races, said, adding, “ I don’t know enough to comment on whether all the races boasting elite participation test for doping violation. The top races do. ’’ Please note: the numbers mentioned – total number of marathons and one’s hosting elites – is an approximation. Besides elite group as reason to test, there is also another cause for top events requiring dope testing. At top events, some of the prized runners from overseas are already on international testing programs and the commitments they have agreed to, must be met here too.

It is understood that in the case of city marathons, the cost of testing for doping violation, has to be borne by the race organizer.

Morning of June 19, this blog mailed a set of questions to NADA hoping to get a better understanding of their work, in particular how the testing at city marathons works. As of evening June 20, no response had been received. Should response be received, this report will be revised suitably.

Geeno Antony. From the 24/12 hour stadium run held June 2019 in Mumbai (This photo was downloaded from the event’s Facebook page)

Narender Ram wins Mumbai’s 24-hour stadium ultra, Geeno Antony tops 12-hour segment

Narender Ram of Delhi piled on the miles to top the list of runners participating in the 24-hour stadium ultra in Mumbai held on June 15-16, 2019.

He recorded 414 laps covering a distance of 165.6 kilometers during the 24-hour period.

The event was organized by NEB Sports at Mumbai University Stadium.

In the 12-hour segment, Geeno Antony claimed top honors. Geeno recorded a distance of 109.1 k (258 laps). Earlier this year, Geeno had won the men’s 100k race at Hennur Bamboo Ultra.

Amar Shiv Dev finished second in the 24-hour segment with 390 laps covering a distance of 156 kilometers. Devi Prasanth Suresh Shetty finished third with 383 laps and a distance of 153.2 kilometers covered. In the 12-hour segment, Sathish Kumar R finished in second position covering a distance of 102.36k (laps – 242) and Rahim K.S. in third position with a distance of 91.57k (laps – 225).

Among women finishers in the 24-hour segment, Priyanka Bhatt was the winner. She recorded 379 laps covering a distance of 151.6k. She was followed by Apeksha Shah who recorded 292 laps and 116.8k. Yamini Kothari finished third with 199 laps covering a distance of 79.6k.

In the 12-hour segment for women, the winner was Babita Baruwati with a distance of 80.92k (laps – 195). Preeti Lala came in second with a distance of 78.4k (laps – 189) and Sunaina Patel came in third with a distance of 77.19k (laps – 186).

Geraint Thomas injured in crash but cleared for July’s Tour de France

Days after ace cyclist Chris Froome suffered serious injury in a crash, Geraint Thomas – also from Team Ineos – met with a crash during Tour de Swiss on June 17.

He was using the event as final preparation for the upcoming edition of Tour de France.

Geraint Thomas is defending champion at Tour de France. He has also won three world championships and two Olympic gold medals.

Although he was pulled out of Tour de Swiss following Monday’s crash, his injuries were not serious, media reports said. The team’s doctor has since cleared him and he is expected to race at Tour de France.

Tour de France starts on July 6.

World Athletics logo (This image was downloaded from the IAAF website and is being used here for representation purpose only. No copyright infringement intended)

IAAF to change its name, logo

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is set to take on a new name and logo.

The new name, ` World Athletics,’ builds upon the organization’s restructuring and governance reform agenda of the past four years to represent a modern, more creative and positive face for the sport. According to an official statement (dated June 9, 2019) posted on the IAAF website, the IAAF Council approved the global governing body’s new name and logo at the 217th  IAAF Council Meeting which concluded recently in Monaco. The new brand, Council agreed, makes the sport more accessible to a wider audience while giving the global governing body the opportunity to more clearly communicate its mission as the leader of the world’s most participatory sport, the statement said.

“ The hope is that our new brand will help attract and engage a new generation of young people to athletics,’’ it quoted IAAF president Sebastian Coe as saying. The logo design is comprised of three main elements: the ‘W’ of World, which is also a symbol of an athlete’s arms raised in victory; the ‘A’ of Athletics, which also represents an athlete’s focus as they prepare for the road ahead; and an arc over both to represent the entire athletics community coming together. The logo also includes the sweep of a running track which appears in an upward trajectory, symbolizing the desire to continually push beyond limits. The patterns capture the energy present in all four of athletics’ group disciplines: running, jumping, throwing and walking.

The new brand identity will begin its rollout in October after the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 and following Congress’s approval of the change to the Federation’s legal name, the statement said.

The IAAF was originally founded in 1912 as the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

2019 Trail World Championships / Results

Jonathan Albon of Great Britain and France’s Blandine L’Hirondel won the individual titles at the IAU Trail World Championships in Miranda do Corvo, Portugal, on June 8, an official statement available on the website of International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said.

Albon took over the lead going up to the highest point of the course early in the second half, stepping up from fourth last year to cross the finish line in 3:35:35. He finished two minutes 13 seconds in front of French runner-up Julien Rancon. Switzerland’s Christan Mathys was third.

L’Hirondel led from early on and came home in 4:06:18, eight minutes 12 seconds clear of New Zealand’s Ruth Croft. Spain’s Sheila Aviles finished third, the statement said.

Albon, who is based in Norway, is now current world champion in trail, ultra skyrunning and obstacle course racing. “It was a great race and the course really suited me,’’ the statement quoted him as saying.

The start of 2019 Comrades from Durban (This photo was downloaded from the event’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose)

Edward Mothibi wins 2019 Comrades, Gerda Steyn sets new course record

Deepak Bandbe is fastest among Indians this year. Satish Gujaran completes his tenth Comrades, gets green number

Edward Mothibi of South Africa won the 94th Comrades Marathon that commenced from Durban on Sunday (June 9).

It was his first win at the event.

He finished the race in five hours, 31 minutes and 33 seconds. He had finished in fourth position in the 2018 edition of the Comrades Marathon.

Gerda Steyn, also of South Africa, broke the women’s record with a timing of 5:58:53 hours in the uphill version of the race. Steyn finished seventeenth overall. The previous record timing of 6:09:23 was set by Russia’s Elena Nurgalieva thirteen years ago.

Mumbai-based Deepak Bandbe was the fastest among runners from India. He covered the 86.83km-distance of the race in 7:43:34 hours. Satish Gujaran, also from Mumbai and running his tenth Comrades completed the race in 10:30:24. He became the first runner from India to secure a green number (permanent bib number), a tradition at Comrades recognizing those running the race ten times.

Bongumusa Mthembu, winner of the 2018 edition of the race, finished second this year with timing of 5:31:58. Nao Kazami ended up in third position with timing of 5:39:16. Among women, Alexandra Morozova (6:17:40) came in second while Caitriona Jennings (6:24:12) finished third.

Everest summit claims questioned

The summit claims of three Indians who were on Everest in the 2019 climbing season have come under the scanner.

The Himalayan Times reported on June 10 that its inquiries showed the three climbers – all from Haryana – had only reached Camp III and not beyond. The report also quoted the managing director of Prestige Adventures Pvt Ltd, the company which managed the expedition the climbers were on, as saying the three had not been to South Col this spring season.

A June 12 report in The Print, said that the Nepal government has started an inquiry and asked the three climbers to provide documentary proof of their claimed successful ascent.

Around two years ago, an Indian couple who claimed to have reached the summit of Everest were found to have faked their claim. For more on Everest and what it has come to mean please read the essay: The World’s Highest Mirror, available on this blog’s list of recent posts. You can also scroll down to access the said article.

Caster Semenya (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose only. No copyright infringement intended)

Caster Semenya case: top court orders temporary suspension of IAAF rule

Caster Semenya, South African athlete and current Olympic champion in the women’s 800m who lost her case against the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) in early May, has come in for temporary relief after the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ordered the IAAF to suspend its testosterone regulations against her with immediate effect, the international media reported early Tuesday (June 4) morning.

The athlete can now compete in distances spanning 400m to a mile without medication until June 25, by when the IAAF has to respond. In a statement, Semenya thanked the judges for their decision, the reports said.

Under emergent IAAF rules, Semenya, an athlete with differences in sexual development (DSD) was required to take medication to bring down her testosterone level if she wished to continue participating in competitions over distances spanning 400m to a mile. Semenya challenged the IAAF regulation but in early May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) ruled in favor of IAAF albeit with reservations. According to a report in The Guardian then, three arbitrators studied the case – IAAF’s policy and Semenya’s appeal against it – for nearly two months. Two of them accepted IAAF’s argument that female athletes with high testosterone level possessed significant advantage in size, strength and power from puberty onward. They felt that IAAF’s policy was reasonable and necessary. A BBC report had mentioned that Cas had “serious concerns as to the future practical application’’ of the regulations. It also said Cas had asked IAAF to consider delaying the application of rules to 1500m and one mile events till more evidence is available.

On May 30, the media reported that Semenya would be taking her case to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The legal battle between 28-year-old Caster Semenya and IAAF is being keenly watched by the global sports community.

Swimming to be part of school curriculum in Kerala

The media in Kerala has reported that the state plans to make swimming part of school curriculum. Speaking at a state level school reopening festival held at the government higher secondary school in Chembuchira, Thrissur district on June 6, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the government intended to start a swimming pool in each of the 140 assembly segments of the state. Swimming will be made part of the school curriculum, the report quoted him as saying.

National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships postponed

The National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships scheduled for July 14-17 in Kolkata, has been postponed, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) informed in a statement.

A fresh date has not been assigned yet.

The postponement has been attributed to the timing of the event against the backdrop of the 2019 IAAF World Championships due in Doha, Qatar in September. Many of the coaches feel, “ the athletes may not be able to repeat their performances in IAAF World Championships 2019 if National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships is conducted as per schedule,” the AFI statement said.

Mountaineers reported missing on Nanda Devi

This incident is being reported using updates. Please scroll down for updates.

Nanda Devi (Photo: Punit Mehta)

On Saturday June 1, 2019, the media reported that a group of eight climbers including seven foreign nationals, who were on an expedition to Nanda Devi East had failed to return on the appointed date to Base Camp.

Authorities were alerted and a search and rescue team dispatched, the news reports said.

For now, the known facts are that the team had altogether 12 members of which eight – four from UK, two from USA, one each from Australia and India – have been reported missing. A reliable picture will be possible once details are available. Those reported missing (as mentioned in official communication) are expedition leader Martin Moran (UK), John Mclaren (UK), Rupert Whewell (UK), Richard Payne (UK), Ruth McCance (Australia), Anthony Sudekum (USA), Ronald Beimel (USA) and Chetan Pandey, the expedition’s liaison officer from India.

The leader of the expedition, Martin Moran, is a much respected mountain guide. Thanks to his many visits to the Indian Himalaya, he is well known in India including in the Nanda Devi region, where he has led climbs before. A British Mountain Guide since 1985, Moran and his family run Moran Mountain, a mountain adventure company that offers courses, tours, guiding and expeditions in Scotland, Norway, Alps and Himalaya.

Of Nanda Devi’s two summits, the east summit (7434m / 24,390 feet) is the lower one. Unlike the mountain’s main summit, which along with the Nanda Devi sanctuary, is shut to trekking and climbing, the east summit is open to climbers. On May 10, Moran Mountain’s Facebook page posted photos and informed commencement of the expedition to “ Sunanda Devi (7434m) – sister of Nanda and one of India’s toughest.’’ This was followed by pictures on May 11 of the team’s flag-off day at Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), New Delhi. Eleven days later on May 22, it further updated that the Nanda Devi team had reached its “ second base camp at 4870m, their home for the next week. After a recce of the route they will be making a summit attempt on an unclimbed peak at 6477m. ‘’ A previous post indicated awareness of the region having received much snow this past winter and the team being suitably prepared with snow shoes.

In its report on the incident, the Sydney Morning Herald, quoting a senior IMF official, wrote that the expedition’s deputy leader Mark Thomas remained at the second base camp with three others and was in radio contact with those who climbed higher. When he didn’t hear anything from them after May 26, he went up to check and found a single, unoccupied tent and beyond it, evidence of avalanche.

Following the authorities being alerted a helicopter was expected to be pressed into service on Sunday (June 2) morning to assist in the search. One seasoned mountaineer this blog spoke to earlier in the day (ie on June 1) said that the information available so far seemed inadequate and mutually ill-fitting to build a cohesive picture of what may have happened. He advised caution and no jumping to conclusions.

Late night, June 1, British Mountain Guides posted the following message from BMG president Mark Charlton, on their Facebook page: Incident Nanda Devi East: The ‘British Association of Mountain Guides’ (BMG) have been made aware of an incident on or near Nanda Devi East where BMG member, IFMGA Mountain Guide, Martin Moran was leading six clients and an Indian National. The BMG is assisting where possible and is in contact with the Indian authorities. At the moment this is all the information we have as communication is very difficult. We will update this post when more reliable facts have been established.

A while later Moran Mountain put up the following post: On behalf of Moran Mountain, we are working with the authorities and the British Association of Mountain Guides to gather information regarding the Nanda Devi East expedition team. Out of respect for those involved and their families, we will be making no further comments at this time. The BMG will release a further statement as and when more information is available.

Update / June 2: There is no change in status as regards the eight climbers reported missing near Nanda Devi. The four remaining members of the group have been airlifted from their camp near the mountain, to Pithoragarh, the district headquarters.

On the Facebook page of Moran Mountain, the Moran family said (this is an abstract from the larger post): The climbing group had set out to attempt an unclimbed, unnamed summit, Peak 6477m, and the last contact intimated that all was well and a summit bid would be made from a camp at around 5400m.

It is not entirely clear what happened from this point onward or indeed the timeline of events. We do know that a British Mountain Guide who was in the area leading a trekking group, as part of the same expedition, was informed that the climbing group had not returned to base camp as expected. He immediately went on the mountain to search for the missing climbers. There was clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain and it seemed to be on or very near the route that would be taken by the climbing group. The Mountain Guide gave instructions to base camp to alert rescue authorities. The alarm was raised early on Friday morning 31st May.

Today we have been informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation that an air search by helicopter has revealed the scale of the avalanche but no sign of the climbers, their equipment nor their tents. We are pressing for the search area to be widened and continued until such time as firm evidence is found to ascertain the well being or otherwise of all those in the climbing group.

Update / June 3: In continuing search operations on Monday (June 3) for the eight climbers reported missing near Nanda Devi, aerial photographs clicked by low flying helicopter have revealed five bodies in the snow.

“ We now fear the team may have perished in the avalanche,’’ a senior official of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) told this blog Monday evening. Going by the chronology of events as reported in the media, it is now just over a week since the suspected time of mishap. The last contact / conversation with the team, appears to have been on May 25. They were expected to be back at camp on May 26; that didn’t happen. The authorities were alerted on May 31. By evening June 2, media reports quoted authorities as saying the prospects of finding and rescuing the missing climbers, seemed bleak.

Earlier in the day CNN had reported that a helicopter crew spotted a backpack in the snow on the unnamed peak, the climbers intended to attempt. Coupled with signs of avalanche noticed in previous sorties, this had strengthened the view that the climbers were indeed caught in one. The backpack was at an elevation of around 5500m (roughly 18,045 feet). The CNN report quoted District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande as saying that chances of the climbers surviving are almost zero now. The report also said that adverse weather was hampering search operations.

Monday’s more precise search was possible thanks to four members of the climbing team, who hadn’t ventured up with the others, being airlifted from their camp near the mountain, to Pithoragarh on June 2. The four included Mark Thomas, deputy leader of the expedition, who had gone up to check on his fellow team members upon being informed that they hadn’t returned to camp as scheduled. As per earlier published news reports, Mark had come across an empty tent and signs of avalanche beyond it. The search operation was expected to leverage his insight on potential location of the team and calibrate the search accordingly. Monday’s helicopter sortie had Mark aboard. Also providing inputs was Dhruv Joshi, mountaineer from Almora who had been deputy leader of an expedition to climb Nanda Khat in 2010 and was familiar with the landscape.  For more on the developments of June 3, please try this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2019/06/03/nanda-devi-east-expedition-five-bodies-spotted/

Update / June 8: According to media reports through the week, adverse weather conditions continued to thwart efforts to land a team by helicopter near Peak 6477 to retrieve the bodies. It is likely that the bodies may have become covered in fresh snow. An official who has kept track of the rescue operations told this blog that indications are, the administration has decided to call off the helicopter sorties. Moves are afoot for a team to hike up to where the bodies lay. Meanwhile 3000 kilometers to the south, the monsoon – already delayed – was expected to make landfall on June 8. In the interlinked world of weather, this could have implications on conditions at altitude too.

Update / June 10: The Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) has launched an expedition to the Traill Pass area to recover the bodies of climbers sighted earlier during helicopter sorties.

“ Based on permission received from DM (district magistrate) Pithoragarh, IMF has launched a ground search expedition. Fully equipped 12 member-team is headed for the accident site through Pindari glacier. They are expected to reach the area by Saturday,” a senior IMF official informed Monday (June 10) morning.

For a perspective of the train of events leading to this decision, please look up all the posts (up to June 10) related to the missing climbers, on this blog.

Update / June 14: Media reports quoting the District Magistrate of Pithoragarh said that a 32-member team comprising 11 mountaineers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) are also heading to the accident spot to retrieve the bodies. The team left for Munsyari on Thursday (June 13). They are expected to be airlifted to “ Nanda Devi second base camp” on Friday, the reports said.

Mont Blanc (Photo: Dinesh Kaigonhalli)

Mont Blanc climbing rules changed

France has changed the rules governing ascent of Mont Blanc (4808.7m / 15,777 feet), Europe’s highest peak.

The media reported on June 2 that people planning to climb the peak via its normal / standard route will now have to book a room at the one of three shelters on the flanks of the mountain if their itinerary included overnight stay. Climbers caught camping on the route risk two years in prison and a stiff fine, the report said.

Mont Blanc attracts almost 25,000 climbers every year and instances of arguments and flaring tempers among teams have been reported. Campaigns to discourage crowds have not worked. Last year 15 climbers died on Mont Blanc, the reports said.

The change to rules follows a deadly May on Everest in far away Nepal, when 11 people died during the 2019 climbing season. The deaths were attributed in the main to too many climbers on the mountain and traffic jams emerging as a result at high altitude causing prolonged exposure to inhospitable environment and compounding strain to climbers.

Caster Semenya case: IAAF wants provisional suspension of DSD regulations by top Swiss court, reversed

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has requested the Swiss Federal Tribune (SFT) to reverse its earlier order allowing provisional suspension of IAAF regulations pertaining to athletes with differences in sexual development (DSD) applied on South African athlete, Caster Semenya.

In a statement dated June 25, posted on its website, IAAF informed that it has submitted its response on provisional measures to the SFT, explaining why its DSD regulations should remain in force during an appeal by a single athlete (the appellant) following a “superprovisional order” issued by the SFT and received by the IAAF on 4 June 2019.

According to the statement, IAAF has specifically requested (1) reversal of the order to the IAAF to super-provisionally suspend the implementation of the DSD Regulations in respect of the appellant (2) dismissal of the appellant’s application to suspend the implementation of the DSD Regulations in respect of the appellant pending the outcome of the appeal.

“ The IAAF fully respects each individual’s personal dignity and supports the social movement to have people accepted in society based on their chosen legal sex and/or gender identity. However, it is also committed to female athletes having the same opportunities as male athletes to benefit from athletics, be that as elite female athletes participating in fair and meaningful competition, as young girls developing life and sport skills, or as administrators or officials.

“ This requires a protected category for females where eligibility is based on biology and not on gender identity. This crucial point was accepted and emphasized by the CAS in its 30 April 2019 decision to uphold DSD regulations. To define the category based on something other than biology would be category defeating and would deter many girls around the world from choosing competitive and elite sport after puberty.

“ The IAAF will continue to defend its DSD Regulations and the CAS Award in the appeal proceedings before the SFT, because it continues to believe in equal rights and opportunities for all women and girls in our sport today and in the future,’’ the statement said.

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