Seema clears another barrier

Indian discus thrower nails maiden Asiad gold to end a long wait; bronze for Naveen, Jaisha

Seema clears another barrier

Seema Punia ended 12 years of bitter disappointment in glorious fashion as rest of the Indian athletes also enjoyed another wonderful outing at the 17th Asian Games here on Monday.

Having missed out on the continental bash the last two times for various reasons, the 31-year-old produced a throw of 61.03 metres on a misty night at the Asian Main Stadium to nail the discus throw gold.

So intense were the emotions bottled up inside her following previous failed forays, the Haryanvi broke into tears as the national anthem was played while she stood on the podium with the cherished gold around her neck.

“Missing the last two Asian Games really hurt me,” said Seema. “I was in top form in 2006 but had to withdraw out of Doha Games because of the doping allegations although I was cleared in the end.

In 2010, the selection committee said only the top two finishers from the preceding Delhi Commonwealth Games would make the Guangzhou trip. It really hurt me and I wanted to desperately win the gold here,” added Seema, who came into this event with silver at the Glasgow CWG.

There were cheers for two more members of the Indian contingent, O P Jaisha winning bronze in the women’s 1500 metres and Naveen Kumar taking the third place in the men’s 3000M steeplechase.

The men’s 4x400M relay team, featuring Arokia Rajiv, P Kunhu Mohammad, Joseph Abraham and Jithin Paul, made it to the final, finishing second in their heats in 3:05.60, but long-jumpers MA Prajusha and Mayookha Johny disappointed immensely, ending eighth and ninth respectively.

The day though belonged to Seema, landing the country’s first track and field gold here. With dark clouds engulfing the entire stadium mirroring her career that has witnessed several dull moments, Seema appeared determined from the time she held the disc.

A slow starter, she began well here, managing a throw of 55.76 metres, the best among the pack. She then kept upping her intensity, hurling throws of 57.00 and 59.36 metres in her second and third attempts that kept her well ahead of the pack.

She then nailed a throw of 61.03 metres on her fourth try and while the fifth was a foul, by the time she entered the circle for her final throw, she was assured of a gold with silver medal winner Lu Xiaoxin of China managing a best of 59.35 and bronze medallist Chinese Tan Jian touching 59.03. Seema managed a 58.78 on her final throw but walked away as the champion, the mix of delight and pain written all over her face.

Earlier in the evening, Jaisha impressed with her gutsy performance in the 1500M. She took a huge gamble in employing the pace-setting strategy that almost brought the 31-year-old a silver.

Winner of the 5000M bronze medal at the Doha Asian Games, Jaisha kept chugging along with a decent pace while two-time world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal and Mimi Belete kept themselves going, undeterred.

Jamal, also the two-time defending champion and London Olympics bronze medallist, stayed behind while Belete stepped up the pace and overtook Jaisha. 

Jamal made her move late, aware of her abilities. She caught up with Jaisha around the final curve and moved up, overtaking Belete as well en route to the gold. Having used up all her energy in the opening assault itself, Jaisha held on to finish in third place.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, one of the star acts at this bash, broke the Asian Games record with a leap of 2.35 metres in the high jump. Zhang Guowei (2.33) of China won silver and Barshim’s brother Muamer Barshim took bronze with a jump of 2.25.

Results: Men: 1500M: Al Garni Mohamad (Qat) 3:40.23, 1; Rasheed Ramzi (Brn) 3:40.95, 2; Adnan Almtfage (Irq) 3:42.50.

3000M steeplechase: Abubaker Ali Kamal (Qat) 8:28.72, 1; Tareq Salem Taher (Brn) 8:39.62, 2; Naveen Kumar (Ind) 8:40.39, 3.

High jump: Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qat) 2.35 metres (GR; Old: 2.33 metres, Zhu Jianhua, Chn, 1982) 1; Zhang Guowei (Chn) 2.33, 2; Muamer Barsham (Qat) 2.25, 3.

Women: 1500M: Maryam Yusuf Jamal (Brn) 4:09.90, 1; Mimi Belete (Brn) 4:11.03, 2; OP Jaisha (Ind) 4:13.46, 3.

Long jump: Maria Natalia Londa (Ina) 6.55, 1; Thi Thu Thao (Vie) 6.44, 2; Yanfei Jiang (Chn) 6.34, 3. MA Prajusha (Ind) 6.23, 8. Mayookha Johny (Ind) 6.12, 9.Discus throw: Seema Punia (Ind) 61.03 metres, 1; Lu Xiaoxin (Chn) 59.35, 2; Tan Jian (Chn) 59.03, 3. Krishna Poonia (Ind) 55.57, 4.

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