Delhi, IndiaAn almost packed Jawaharlal Nehru stadium thundered its approval on Monday (11) night as India claimed their first athletics gold of the Games – and added the flourish of a clean sweep.
While Kenya’s dominance continued – save for the defiance of Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, who completed a double by winning the 10,000m title after outsprinting Eliud Kipchoge to the 5000m title on the first day of the programme – it was the home achievements which resonated most strongly.
Poonia leads Indian podium in Discus
Krishna Poonia was the local heroine as she threw 61.51m in the discus to claim her country’s first athletics gold of the Games, with fellow Indians Harwant Kaur (60.16m) and Seema Antil (58.46m) claiming the other places on the podium.
“It’s amazing,” said Poonia. “I dedicate this medal to all the Indians. With this I think we wiped out everything bad that was happening before the Games and came out united. I can’t express my happiness to see all the support. I enjoyed it and I thank all the people.
“I will prepare for the Asian Games and now we can hope for the gold in 2012.”
There was the promise of more imminent tangible rewards for India as both their men’s and women��s 400m relay teams won their semi-finals in style. Pearson dominates 100m Hurdles
Sally Pearson, whose 100m victory on Tuesday was belatedly annulled for a false start, earned an expected consolation with victory in her specialist event, the 100m hurdles, setting a Games record as she crossed the line – with a smile of relief on her face – in 12.67. Angela White of Canada took silver with a season’s best of 12.98, and New Zealand’s Andrea Miller bronze with a season’s best of 13.25.
“It’s been a horrible week because of the disqualification,” Pearson said. “I was really focused and stayed in the blocks and made sure that everyone got out ahead of me.
“I am just relieved and happy now. I did not even have to look I just knew I had won gold. I am not going home without anything. It feels so great, it is just magical.”
Mateelong defeats Kemboi and Kipruto
The expected Kenyan clean sweep in the 3000m Steeplechase duly came to pass, although it was in the least expected order as Richard Mateelong earned victory in 8:16.39 ahead of his colleagues Ezekiel Kemboi, who is the second fastest in the world this year with 8:01.74, and Brimin Kipruto, who has recorded the fastest time in 2010, 8:00.90.
With two laps to go the only other runner in contention was Uganda’s Benjamin Kiplagat. With one lap to go it was merely a case of how the Kenyan trio would divide the spoils. Kemboi finished second in 8:18.47, and Kipruto took bronze in 8.19.65.
Sapolai Yao, of Papau New Guinea, struggled throughout to cope with the hurdles, and in particular the water jump, which he negotiated in the manner of a man climbing onto the ledge of a high building before throwing himself off.
After Yao finished, in 10:01.57, he had the disappointment of hearing that he had been disqualified for using one of the potted plants placed under the water jump barrier for decorative purposes to get a bit of a leg up.
Langat takes 800 to complete double..
Also as expected, Kenya’s Olympic champion Nancy Langat won gold in the 800m after home runner Tintu Luka had raised local expectations to a frenzied pitch by taking an early lead and hanging on for dear life. If it had been the 720m, she would have been golden, but there was a sad inevitability about the way the field swallowed her up coming round the top bend.
Langat finished in 2:00.01, with Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand taking silver in 2:00.5 and Canada’s Diane Cummins bronze in 2:00.13.
.. and Kipsiro adds 10,000m title to 5000m triumph
But the Kenyans didn’t have it all their own way. With 11 laps to go in the 10,000m final, as in the 3000m Steeplechase, there were three Kenyans and a Ugandan in contention for the medals.
On this occasion, however, the bell was the signal for Kipsiro to go, with three Kenyans trying to get past him. Joseph Birech looked the man most likely, but Kipsiro’s unwavering speed down the final straight proved too much for him.
A late acceleration from Daniel Salel looked as if it might yet save the race for the dominant power of Commonwealth middle distance running, but the Ugandan had the energy left to cross the line first in 27:57.39sec before holding up two fingers – in the polite manner – to mark his double.
Salel took silver in 27:57.57, and Birech bronze in a personal best of 27:58.58.
Elsewhere, Cydonia Mothersill won the 200m title for Cayman Islands in 22.89, with England’s Olympic finalist of 2004, Abi Oyepitan, signalling a welcome return to the top flight after years of injury problems by taking silver in a season’s best of 23.26.
And in the Pole Vault, as expected, Steve “The Mailman” Hooker, Australia’s Olympic and World champion, delivered another gold with an effort of 5.60m.