Indian Railways shot putter Manpreet Kaur was one positive off-shoot from 55th National Open Athletics Championship, which came to an end at Kolkata on Saturday September 19, 2015. Manpreet hurled the 4 Kg sphere to a distance of 17.96 meters and secured a berth for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The International Association Of Athletics Federations, IAAF have set the Olympic qualifying mark for women shot putters at 17.80 meters and Manpreet’s throw was comfortably beyond that mark. The Patiala-based Manpreet thus became the latest Indian athlete to qualify for next year’s Olympics after wrestler Narsingh Yadav attained the qualification standard a few days ago at Word Wrestling Championship at Las Vegas.
On her way to securing the Rio berth, Manpreet Kaur also shattered the 18-year-old national record in women’s shot put and won her sixth National Open Athletics Championship title at Kolkata. The earlier record stood in the name of Harbans Kaur, who also belonged to Indian Railway. Harbans had sent the put to a distance of 17.43 meters at Mumbai in 1997. However, other women shot putters ended with disappointing performances. Silver medalist Manpreet from ONGC could only threw at 15.03 meters, which should be considered pathetic from world standards. The shot put bronze medal was taken by Punjab’s Ramanpreet Kaur, who could only manage 14.36 meters. It tells us that Indian women need to work much harder to be able to qualify among the world’s best shot putters.
Manpreet might have excelled at the national level but her effort is far too short from world standards. Though the IAAF entry standard for 2016 Rio Olympics is 17.80 meters, the gold, silver and bronze winners at 2012 London Olympics all went beyond 20 meters. Manpreet is aware of that and she has already begun to train hard with the objective of making further improvements. Earlier, she had to take a break from athletics for three years because of pregnancy and then raising a young daughter. After her come back, she has improved on her personal best by a meter and a half. Manpreet says her target is to make the country proud in Olympics and she is confident that she would be able to reach 19 meters by the time she leaves for Rio next year.
The world record in women’s shot put is several meters more than Manpreet’s PB and there are countless active women shot putters, who have crossed 20 meters. In the recent World Championship at Beijing Germany’s Christina Schwanitz won the gold with a throw of 20.37 meters. But the world record stands in the name of ex-Soviet Union athlete Natalya Lisovskaya, who hurled the iron sphere to 22.63 meters in 1987 while the Olympic record of 22.14 meters belongs to Ilona Slupianek of former East Germany set in the 1980 Moscow Games. The women’s world shot put scene is currently dominated by German Christina Schwanitz, New Zealander Valerie Adams, China’s Gong Lijiao, Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk and many more, who have gone well beyond 20 meters. Therefore, Manpreet Kaur will have to summon her will and at least reach 20 meters by the time she arrives in Rio in 2016.