National Games: Fifth-place finish exposes rot in Kerala athletics

Nayana James
Long jumper Nayana James, who won the gold, was one of the few bright stars for Kerala. File photo: Fahad Muneer

Ahmedabad: Once a powerhouse in Indian athletics, Kerala put up an insipid performance in track and field events at the ongoing National Games here. The state, which had been the overall champions in athletics in the last three editions of the championship, managed only a fifth-place finish with 11 medals this time around.

The athletes from Kerala could only win three gold, six silver and two bronze medals at the 36th edition of the Games. In the previous edition in 2015, the state, as hosts, had won 34 medals in athletics that included 13 gold, 14 silver and seven bronze medals.

Services, with a total of 28 medals including 11 gold, emerged overall champions in athletics. They were in second place in the 2015 edition with 20 medals including nine gold. Services amassed 184 points to top the points table while Tamil Nadu garnered 134 points to finish second and Uttar Pradesh (110 points) came third. The fifth-placed Kerala could secure only 73.5 points.

Surprisingly, athletes from the state even failed to enter the final rounds in many showpiece events such as 100 metre sprint, 5,000 metre and 10,000 metre race, mens' 110 metre hurdles, men's 400 metre hurdles, men's 3,000 steeplechase, and men's 800 metre race.

The state also cut a sorry figure in disciplines like shot put, discus throw, hammer throw, 35km walk, and 4x400 metre relay. Several athletes from the state who were touted as medal prospects at the start of the sporting extravaganza could not quite do justice to their abilities in Ahmedabad. In disciplines like pole vault, 400 metre and 800 metre races, where athletes from the state used to dominate, Kerala could not win a single medal.

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