Red-letter day in Indian sport

Red-letter day in Indian sport

India's Neeraj Chopra competes in the final of the men's javelin throw at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Monday. Reuters

The gigantic Geloro Bung Karno Stadium was almost empty when Neeraj Chopra climbed the top of the podium to receive his gold medal. It was a small step for Chopra, but a giant one for Indian athletics. 

No Indian had ever won a javelin throw gold medal at the Asian Games but the 20-year-old changed that all on Monday night. The brightest talent in Indian athletics made light of the competition on view, smashing the national record en route to the title.

Chopra had a best of 87.43 metres coming to this event. As his rivals failed to raise the bar, Chopra was in a competition with himself. A first-round effort of 83.46 put him in gold medal position but just to confirm his status, the young lion uncorked a monstrous 88.06m throw in the third round to silence the pretenders — China’s Liu Qizhen (82.22) and Pakistan’s Nadeem Arshad (80.75). Cheng Chao Tsun (79.81), the man who was expected to be a threat to Chopra, was way back in fifth position.

Chopra’s roar reverberated around the arena but a little later, he was calmness personified as he put his effort in perspective. “It wasn’t easy, the rivals were good but my performance was better and that brings me happiness, especially so because I broke the national record,” said the man who will now be rushing to make a mark at the upcoming Diamond League Finals in Zurich and the Continental Cup.

Chopra’s gold was India’s second one in athletics here, after Tajinderpal Singh’s medal in shot put. His team-mates then claimed three more silver medals to make it a healthy tally after three days of competitions.

Dharun Ayyasamy broke the national record in 400m hurdles to win the first silver while Sudha Singh in the 3000m steeplechase and Neena Pinto in long jump followed suit with not-so-impressive performances, but good enough on the night.

Dharun, who had set the previous record of 49.45 at Patiala in March, came up with a late surge from third position to pip Japan’s Abe Takatoshi to bronze, timing 48.96 seconds. Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba was way ahead in gold medal position, timing 47.66, a Games record.

Sudha Singh, the champion in 2010, was also comfortably beaten by Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi, another African import, who timed 9:36.52. The Indian clocked 9:40.03.

“The timing doesn’t matter, the medal does,” said Sudha. “People had written me off because I am 32. But the federation kept faith in me and I repaid it today.”

Asian champion Bui Thi The Thao of Vietnam edged Neena in the long jump pit with a leap of 6.55m. The Indian, who was second in the Asian meet as well, had a 6.51 in the fourth round for the silver, just one centimetre ahead of China’s Xu Xiaoling.

In high jump, India’s B Chetan was eighth with 2.20 metres, among a clutch of other Indians who couldn’t enter the medal zone. It didn’t matter on this night when Chopra provided a gold of the highest class.

DH News Service

Results: Men: 400m hurdles: Abderrahman Samba (Qatar) 47.66 (Games record) 1; Dharun Ayyasamy (India) 48.96, 2; Abe Takatoshi (Japan) 49.12, 3. Santhosh Kumar (India) 49.66, 5.

3000m steeplechase: Hossein Keyhani (Iran) 8:22.79 (Games record) 1; Yaser Bagharab (Qatar) 8:28.21, 2; Kazuya Shiojiri (Japan) 8:29.42, 3. Shankar Lal (India) 8:43.43, 8.

High jump: Wang Yu (China) 2.30 metres, 1; Woo Sanghyeok (Korea) 2.28, 2; Majd Eddin Ghazal (Syria) 2.24, 3. Chetan B (India) 2.20, 8.

Javelin throw: Neeraj Chopra (India) 88.06 metres, 1; Liu Qizhen (China) 82.22, 2; Arshad Nadeem (Pakistan) 80.75, 3. Shivpal Singh (India) 74.00, 8.

Women: 400m hurdles: Oluwakemi Adekoya (Bahrain) 54.48 seconds, (Games record) 1; Quach Thi Lan (Vietnam) 55.30, 2; Aminat Jamal (Bahrain) 55.65, 3. Anu Raghavan (India) 56.92, 4. Jauna Murmu (India) 57.48, 5.

3000M steeplechase: Winfred Yavi (Bahrain) 9:36.52, 1; Sudha Singh (India) 9:40.03, 2; Thi Oanh Nguyen (Vietnam) 9:43.83, 3.

Long jump: Bui Thi Thu Thao (Vietnam) 6.55 metres, 1; Neena Pinto (India) 6.51, 2; Xu Xiaoling (China) 6.50, 3.