Home team wins 4x400 gold, and earns qualification for World Championships in Moscow
The scenes were reminiscent of the Commonwealth Games 2010 but the characters were all different this time.
The Indian 4x400M relay team winning the gold medal was a memorable image from 2010 but it was tarnished by the scandal that followed almost a year later.
Three years on, another beginning was made on the final day of the 20th Asian Athletics Championships on Sunday, with the country’s quartet emerging toppers with a spectacular run. The team of Nirmala Sheoran, Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and M R Poovamma ran the race of their lives to win the gold in 3:32.26, finishing ahead of China (3:35.31) and Japan (3:35.72) as the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex roared in approval.
The winning time also clinched India a spot at the World Championships in Moscow, as it was better than the qualifying standard of 3:33.00. It was also India’s quickest since the CWG race of 3:27.77. On a rainy evening, India won three silver and four bronze medals in other events to finish sixth on the medals table with two gold, six silver and nine bronze medals. India had won one gold, three silver and eight bronze last time at Kobe, Japan.
Despite keeping many of their top performers at home, China topped the table with 16 gold, six silver and five bronze, way ahead of Bahrain (5-7-3) who rode on their African imports to take the second place for the first time. Renjith Maheswary (men’s triple jump), Asha Roy (women’s 200M) and Jithin Thomas (men’s high jump) won silver medals while Arpinder Singh (triple jump), Dutee Chand (200M), Tintu (women’s 800) and Satinder Singh (men’s 400M hurdles) claimed bronze medals on the final day.
The relay team had stirred up interest even before it took the field, with selection issues coming into focus. But there was no hint of trouble as the four, running together for the first time, outclassed their rivals after a slow start.
Nirmala, the lead-off runner, was third as she handed the baton to Tintu, but the P T Usha-ward, returning to the track an hour after a disappointing run in the 800M, ran hard and strong to fetch India the lead. Anu then ran a superb third leg, handing the baton to Poovamma with a 10M advantage. Poovamma built on that, her long strides pulling India closer and closer to their goal. As the trackside timer froze at 3:32.26, the 23-year-old floated into the arms of her screaming team-mates. “It feels great,” said an elated Poovamma. “All of us ran our best races. Now we have to prepare for the World Championships,” she added.
Renjith missed the gold by a whisker, with China’s Cao Shuo edging the Indian by a centimetre. Cao threw down the gauntlet with a 16.77M leap and the Indian, champion in 2007, responded with a 16.76 but couldn’t go further. Arpinder (16.58) edged out Asian leader Roman Valiyev of Kazakhstan (16.55) for the bronze.
Surprise medals came from the women’s 200M as Asha (23.71) and Dutee (23.82) came charging behind Kazakhstan’s Viktoriya Zyabkina (23.62) in an incredible run. Japan’s defending champion Chisato Fukushima faltered to end up fourth, one thousandth of a second behind Dutee, though both were credited with the same time while China had no athlete in the final. Tintu misjudged her pace in the 800M to repeat her bronze-winning show from Kobe. A slow first lap nailed her chances as she followed home China’s Wang Chunyu (2:02.47) and Bahrain’s Genzeb Shumi Regasa (2:04.16) in 2:04.48.
Jithin delivered a surprise silver in high jump. The Indian tied for the top spot with China’s Bi Xiaoliang and Keyvan Ghanbarzadeh of Iran at 2.21M. In a jump-off, the Chinese cleared 2.18 while the other two failed, leaving them sharing the second spot.
Satinder’s bronze in the 400 hurdles too was a bonus. A desperate lunge at the finish help the Indian to keep out a fast-finishing Yuta Imazeki of Japan. Satinder’s 50.35 was his season’s best. In other events, Betlhem Belayneh Desalegn of UAE completed a double, winning the 5000M to add to the 1500M title she had won earlier while Saudi Arabia set a championship record to win the men’s 4x400 relay.
Results: Men: 200M: Xie Zhenye (China) 20.87 seconds, 1; Fahad Mohd Alsuabaie (Saudi Arabia) 20.92, 2; Kei Takase (Japan) 20.92, 3. 800M: Musaab Abdelrahman Balla (Qatar) 1:46.92, 1; Abdulaziz Ladan Mohammed (Saudi Arabia) 1:47.01, 2; Bilal Mansour Ali (Bahrain) 1:48.56, 3. 5000M: Dejene Regassa Mootuma (Bahran) 13:53.25, 1; Alemu Bekele (Bahrain) 13:57.23, 2; Imad Hamed Noor (Saudi Arabia) 14:05.88, 3.
400M hurdles: Yasuhiro Fueki (Japan) 49.86 seconds, 1; Cheng Wen (China) 50.07, 2; Satinder Singh (India) 50.35, 3.
High jump: Bi Xiaoliang (China) 2.21 metres, 1; Keyvan Ghanbarzadeh (Iran) and Jithin C Thomas (India) 2.21, 2.
Triple jump: Cao Shuo (China) 16.77 metres, 1; Renjith Maheswary (India) 16.76, 2; Arpinder Singh (India) 16.58, 3. 4x400M relay: Saudi Arabia 3:02.53 (NMR. Old: 3:02.61, Japan, 1998), 1; Japan 3:04.46, 2; Sri Lanka 3:04.92, 3. Women: 200M: Viktoriya Zyabkina (Kazakhstan) 23.62 seconds, 1; Asha Roy (India) 23.71, 2; Dutee Chand (India) 23.82, 3. 800M: Wang Chunyu (China) 2:02.47, 1; Regasa Genzeb Shumi (Bahrain) 2:04.16, 2; Tintu Luka (India) 2:04.48, 3. 5000M: Betlhem Belayneh Desalegn (UAE) 15:12.84 (NMR. Old: 15:22.48, Tejitu Daba) 1; Shitaye Eshete (Bahrain) 15:22.17, 2; Tejitu Daba (Bahrain) 15:38.63, 3.
400M hurdles: Satomi Kubokura (Japan) 56.82 seconds, 1; Manami Kira (Japan) 57.78, 2; Jo Eun-Ju (South Korea) 58.21, 3. 4x400M relay: India (Nirmala Sheoran, Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose, M R Poovamma) 3:32.26, 1; China 3:35.31, 2; Japan 3:35.72, 3.