National Games: Road king Naveen John retains Time Trial gold cycling (round-up)

Karnataka’s ace cyclist Naveen John successfully defended his men’s Individual Time Trial title in the National Games Road Cycling competition on the highway east of the Gujarat Capital.

Manipur’s Tongbram and Monorama Devi, who was a part of the Indian team in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, defeated Chayanika Gogoi (Assam) and Pooja Baban Danole (Maharashtra) to win the Women’s 85km Road Race on a cloudy morning.

Services and Maharashtra rallied to win the men’s and women’s gold medals in the Water Polo competition at the Sardar Patel Aquatics Complex in Rajkot. Services recovered to defeat Kerala 10-8 with two last-minute goals in a nail-biting men’s final while Maharashtra women beat Kerala 5-3 in the last round-robin match to win the title.

With five medals on Saturday from water polo, cycling and yogsana, Maharashtra went past Services in the total medal count. They have 104 to Services 101. Services, of course, are entrenched at the top of the table with 42 gold, 31 silver and 27 bronze while Haryana are second with 29 gold, 23 silver and 23 bronze for a total of 75 medals so far.

Tamil Nadu’ S. Vaishnavi claimed the women’s Artistic Yogasana gold with 134.22 points, to be flanked on the podium by Maharashtra duo Chhakuli Bansilal Selokar (127.68) and Purva Shriram Kinare (126.68). Purva would draw immense satisfaction after the bronze medal effort, having sneaked into the final as the 10th and last qualifier.

In men’s hockey at the Maj. Dhyan Chand Stadium in Rajkot, Karnataka beat hosts Gujarat 11-2 to earn a semifinal outing with Haryana, who showed Tamil Nadu the exit with a 3-0 victory. Uttar Pradesh edged out West Bengal via the penalty shootout after the thriller ended 1-1 in regular play. Uttar Pradesh awaits the winner of the Maharashtra-Jharkhand clash.

With a satisfying second half in the 38km Time Trial event, Naveen John justified his decision to not travel to New Delhi for the 4000m Individual Pursuit event in the velodrome at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Complex last week. “I wanted gold and focused on the road events,” he said. “I did not want to finish with just the minor medals.”

Naveen John, who gave up his pursuit of a Master’s degree in Engineering to return to India a decade back, had to overcome challenges of his own on Saturday. “My racing suit, which has been with me through victories in seven National Championships, decided to give up. A safety pin came in handy, but I was not in the race mindset through the first loop of 19km,” he said.

“I could see the worried look on Karnataka coach Anita’s face and I realised I was behind the gold medal pace. I reminded myself why I was here and cranked up my pace on the second loop to succeed in my mission of defending the Time Trial gold I won in Kerala,” he said, praising the arrangements that encouraged the cyclists to go all out.

“It was a safe course with traffic, or even pedestrians. The Gujarat police and the organisers have ensured that we have a great experience. We crossed the Sabarmati four times, making it picturesque, too,” he said. “We got lucky with the weather, too, as the road was nice and dry after a very wet evening. The weather Gods showed up well today.”

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