Indian runner O P Jaisha, an Asian Games medallist in 1,500m and 5,000m events, made a memorable marathon debut here today by breaking the 19-year-old national mark of Vally Satyabhama to qualify for the World Championships in Beijing later this year.
Jaisha clocked 2 hours, 37 minutes and 29 seconds in the 12th Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon to better the nearly two-decade-old national mark of 2:39:10 set by Satyabhama from December 21, 1995, in Chennai.
In the process, Jaisha - the best Indian woman finisher in the event - also comfortably dipped under the 2:44 qualifying mark set by Athletics Federation of India for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August.
Apart from Jaisha, who finished 8th overall in the race which was won comfortably by defending women's champion Dinknesh Mekash who led a 1-7 Ethiopian finish, Lalita Babar (2:38:21, 9th) and Sudha Singh (2:42:12, 11th) also dipped under the qualifying mark for the Beijing World Championships.
Significantly, both Jaisha and Lalita, coached by national middle and long distance coach Dr Nikolai Snesarev, finished higher than even Kenya's Monica Wangari who finished 10th in 2:42:12, just edging out Sudha Singh.
Lalita also cut 12 seconds from the time she had clocked last year while finishing as the leading Indian woman runner.
Asked which race would she concentrate on now that she has qualified for both 5,000m and marathon in Beijing, Jaisha said "I don't know. The coach (Snesarev) will decide on it."
Snesarev said that Jaisha will run in the 5,000m and 10,000m at Beijing while Lalita would take part in the 5,000m and her pet event 3,000m steeplechase.
On the other hand, none of the Indian male runners could attain the AFI-set qualifying standard of 2:18.
While top Indian finisher Karan Singh, of Army Sports Institute, Pune, clocked 2:21:35 to finish 11th overall, his teammate Arjun Pradhan - who was the leading Indian runner till the last few kilometres - clocked 2:22:22 to finish 12th.
Kumaon Regiment runner Bahadur Singh Dhoni was the third fasted Indian at 2:22:41 that fetched him the 13th spot overall. The race was won by marathon debutant Tesfaye Abera of Ethiopia in 2:09:46.