Haryana scooped as many as 12 gold on day four of the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati on Monday to surge past Maharashtra to the top of the medal table. Pumped up by four gold in kabaddi, three each in archery and athletics and one each in cycling and gymnastics, Haryana amassed 17 gold after Day 4 to catapult from sixth to top spot.

Maharashtra picked up only four gold on Monday for a total of 16 to slip to the second position. It has a total of 71 medals. Defending champions Maharashtra were well served by U-21 gymnast Aditee Ajit Dandekar and their 4x100m relay quartet but they could only watch as Haryana went for the kill across sports.

Haryana dominated kabaddi but were surprisingly taken to the wire by Himachal Pradesh in the women’s U-21 final. The hill state rallied from a six-point deficit at half-time to tie the scores at 27-27 at the end of regulation time. Last year’s runners-up Haryana had to dig deep into the reserves of their experience to sneak home in extra-time.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu stole the limelight in athletics, with an equally impressive five-gold show. Kerala’s Ancy Sojan too made an impact, anchoring her state’s U-21 4x100m relay squad to collect her third gold medal of the Games.

Three of Tamil Nadu’s gold medals came in jumps, through S Saran (men’s U-21 long jump), Pavithra (women’s U-21 pole vault) and Babisha (women’s U-21 triple jump). Their gold tally has swelled to seven from track and field, taking them to the fifth place with 8 gold out of 25 medals. Delhi and Gujarat occupied the third and fourth spots.

Haryana dominated archery too, winning seven medals including 3 gold. Himani Kumari, who missed out on a medal in Pune last year, claimed the women’s U-21 title with an easy win in the final.

Tisha Punia, a quarter-finalist last time, beat her teammate Tamanna in the U-17 final while Ridhi took the bronze to ensure a sweep for them in this category.

Madhya Pradesh’s compound archers Muskan Kirar (women’s U-21) and Chirag Vidyarthi (boys U-17) bettered their last year’s performances to bag gold medals this time. Chirag Vidyarthi had to hold his nerves in securing a 1-point win against Rajasthan’s Rajesh Bishnoi.

Haryana cyclist Anil Manglaw secured the most comfortable victory in the road races held on Monday. Assam’s Gongutri Bordoloi won the women’s U-21 road race (60km) in a stirring finish that saw the podium finishers separated only by 0.15 seconds.

Similarly, Delhi’s Arshad Farid and Maharashtra’s Pooja Danole outsprinted their rivals in the U-17 races but only just. Gujarat’s Rushiraj Jadeja, a student of the District Level Sports School in Ahmedabad, finished sixth in qualification but came into his own to win the boys U-21 10m air rifle gold from home favourite Hridhay Hazarika.

Parth Makhija (Delhi), who topped qualifying with 630.6, finished fifth, three sub-10 shots hurting him. Gujarat’s judokas showed their growing prowess on the mat to win three of the eight gold medals on offer in the U-21 competition. Seven of the state’s 10 gold medals have come from the Judo competition.

While Gujarat’s sustained efforts to rake in medals hogged the limelight, Mizoram’s Chinglinmawaii caught attention by winning the women’s U-21 52kg class for her state’s second gold in all.

In his sixth and final attempt, Tamil Nadu’s S Saran leaped a mammoth 7.41m to claim the gold medal in the boys U-21 long jump event of the Khelo India Youth Games in Guwahati on Monday.

Trailing in the third position after his first five jumps, Saran was way behind Haryana’s Bhupender Singh (7.30m) and Kerala’s R Sajan (7.29m), but he stunned the field with a gravity-defying jump for a sensational finish to the event. “I was a bit rusty to start off, but I managed a decent 7.11m in my second jump,” an elated Saran said. “But then, I lost my rhythm and struggled in the next four rounds.”

“As I prepared for my last jump, I somehow could only think of the gold medal. I calmed myself down and executed the jump to perfection. I am really happy to have won for my state,” the jumper added.

Saran knew what he was up against after the second set of jumps. Bhupender Singh cleared 7.30m to emerge as the hot favourite. He neared that mark in each of his next jumps to underline his supremacy.

“I had Bhupender’s mark in my mind each time I was getting ready for my jump. I have a personal best of 7.50m so I knew I could go for it,” Saran said about his strategy.

Incidentally, Saran picked up the sport by watching videos of Carl Lewis and calls him his role model. “I started playing the sport because I was so inspired by Carl Lewis. I used to watch his videos on the internet, and with the help of my coach, I have been able to improve myself.

“The aim now is to win every competition I compete in and to obviously improve on my personal best,” Saran said.

“I think Saran was a bit under par today. He came in a bit raw as he had trained for only a couple of weeks for this competition,” Tamil Nadu coach Indhra Saran said of his ward.

Saran has charted out his future course of action, with the Senior Nationals in his sight. Thereafter, he will be going for a few other competitions around the world too.

Maharashtra shooter Rudraksh wins gold

Maharashtra’s Rudraksh Patil shot down the 10m air rifle gold and promptly set his sights on emulating Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra. “Abhinav sir has won an Olympic gold in shooting, so my dream is to win two for the country,” Rudraksh revealed his dream.

He underlined his ability to focus on his goal by following the instructions of his coach to the last dot. “My coach had told me not to think of the medal at all, to strictly not look at the scoreboard. It was not easy but I did just that and I guess that’s why I have succeeded,” an assured Rudraksh said, flashing a smile as he finally looked at the scoreboard that reflected a high score of 252.4.

Maharashtra clinched a second medal in the 10m air rifle gold, with Shahu Tushar Mane taking the bronze in the boys’ U-21 category. Shahu was expectedly disappointed for missing out on the gold.

“It’s disappointing that I didn’t win the gold, but in the final analysis, it’s fine. Especially as my performance in the finals was pretty good. I have had a nice run in the Khelo Games, winning the gold in the first edition of the competition and a bronze now,” Shahu explained.

Like most of India’s talented sportspersons, 18-year-old Mane’s parents too were alarmed about his career choice, especially as they didn’t know if they could provide him the expensive equipment and ammunition.

“I took up shooting just as a hobby, at the age of 14. My parents, who work at a medical store, were worried even though I hadn’t even thought of taking up shooting as a career at that point,” Shahu said.

“But when I won the gold in the 2017 Youth Nationals, they were ecstatic and have been wholeheartedly supporting me since then,” he added.

He doesn’t have those concerns any longer, with Go Sports sponsoring him now. Both Rudraksh and Shahu are delighted at the progress made by Maharashtra, after a slump in the last few years.

“Maharashtra is making a comeback in shooting. We are winning medals again and that is great,” Rudraksh said.

When asked about his biggest inspiration, Shahu did not hesitate to name his coach Suma Shirur, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

“My biggest inspirations have been Suma Shirur and Niccolo Campriani. Suma ma’am cares a lot for all her students. I have been training with her for the last three years. She is like my second mother,” Shahu said.