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0.01-second heartbreak ends with athletes draped in Indian flag at 20th National Para Athletics

Bhubaneswar: The most heartbreaking losses in athletics are usually the ones on the track where an athlete is left stranded by one-hundredth of a second. Losing out on a podium or finishing second-best by a mere 0.01-second could be the biggest pain a track athlete could have to endure.

PT Usha’s unfortunate finish at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in Women’s 400m hurdles remains the biggest testament to that for Indian sports fans.

Something similar transpired during the Men’s T-12 100m dash at the recently concluded 20th National Para Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.

The athletes in question here were Kerala’s Sujith MS and Maharashtra’s Shubham Singnath after a photo finish for the first and second spot. Those couple of minutes after the starting pistol was fired for the Men’s T-12 100m on the second day of the National Para Athletics Championships were quite certainly the most chaotic few minutes during the course of the four-day event.

Sujith MS started off in a brilliant fashion taking a sizeable lead by the time he reached the 30m mark. He seemed to have pocketed the top spot on the podium by the time the athletes crossed the 80m mark, but what followed was truly sensational.

The Kerala-lad seemed to have miscalculated his moves and drastically slowed down with less than 20m left to cross the finish line. Shubham Singnath, who was always playing catch-up after a poor start, sensed his opportunity.

The Maharashtra boy upped his pace beautifully to give Sujith a run for his money before both of them seemed to have crossed the finish line together. The latter was sure he had pocketed the race as he announced to his teammates waiting at the finish line, “First aa njan (I am first).”

The latter, however, waited anxiously for the result to pop up on the big screen.

It was a long wait as the officials took their own sweet time to display the timings on the screen near the finish line. But as soon as it did, the Kerala camp waiting below the screen erupted in elation.

Sujith, despite a miscalculation and a late surge from Shubham, had managed to bag the gold medal clocking 11.84 seconds, while the Maharashtra camp looked dejected seeing 11.85 seconds against their star’s name.

A swarm of reporters soon gathered around Sujith, while Shubham broke down at the other side of the track away from the eyes of the media.

“It was a bad miscalculation from me. I thought I had crossed the finish line long back but it turns out I did not,” Sujith, who trains without a coach, confessed to The Bridge after the race.

By the time Sujith had gathered his thoughts about the race, Shubham was almost halfway through his way to exit the stadium before we caught up to him.

Agreeing to speak after his teammates and the Maharastra team manager egged him on, Shubham said, “I am very disappointed. I thought I had a decent start, but I was not able to accelerate as I would have liked to. It felt as if I had lost all my strength in the middle of the race,” the 2019 National Champion in both T-12 Men’s 100m and 200m, lamented.

Sujith MS and Shubham Singnath discuss their Men’s T-12 100m race at the 20th National Para Athletics Championships (Aniket Biswal/The Bridge)

As Shubham was still coming to terms with his shock loss against a rookie – Sujith was competing in a track event at the National level for the first time, the Kerala lad reached the exit gate searching for him.

What followed was heartwarming as the two discussed their race in detail, before finishing it with a hug and the Indian tricolour draped around their back.

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