Neeraj Chopra, the javelin winner at the Asian Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
Hosts India garnered a dozen gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals against China’s 8-7-5 to top the medal tally as the Asian Championships concluded at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Sunday (9).
Japan was a champion state in the first four editions of the championships (1973 to 1981). China’s dominance then commenced in Kuwait City in 1983 and they had an unbeaten run until the last edition in Wuhan two years ago. But with a 95-strong contingent on home soil and capitalising on the absence of several top stars from other Asian nations, India took advantage and topped the medals table.
World U20 champion and record-holder Neeraj Chopra had some initial hiccups in the javelin final and was in third place after his fourth-round throw of 83.06m. At that stage, Qatar’s Ahmed Bader Magour, who recently set a national record of 85.23m in Turku, led the field with 83.70m, while Chopra’s teammate Davinder Singh Kang was also slightly ahead at 83.29m.
With both Magour and Kang having already eclipsed the championship record, a nervous Chopra regained focus in the final round and sent his spear out to 85.23m to snatch victory.
India, however, had a disappointing start to the evening by missing out on a medal in the women’s discus for the third successive championships. In the 200m finals, home favourites Dutee Chand and Srabani Nanda didn’t make it on to the podium as Kazakhstan’s 100m winner Viktoriya Zyabkina completed the sprint double by winning the longer event in 23.10. Sri Lanka’s Rumeshika Rathnakumari (23.43) pushed 100m silver medallist Olga Safronova to third spot (23.47), while Chand (23.59) and Nanda (23.67) finished behind them.
A further blow for the hosts came in the women’s 800m, where an exhausted Tintu Luka was unable to finish the race, surrendering the title she won two years ago. Teammate Archana Adhav crossed the line first in 2:05.00, but her joy was short-lived as she was disqualified for pushing Sri Lanka’s Nimali Arachchige a few metres before the finish.
It meant that Arachchige, the bronze medallist two years ago, was this time crowned the champion in 2:05.23 while her teammate Gayanthika Abeyrathne was awarded the silver medal.
But Indian athletes returned to winning ways thanks to Swapna Barman, who won the heptathlon with 5942, and 5000m winner G Lakshmanan, who completed the distance double by taking gold in the 10,000m in 29:55.87 as teammate T Gopi took the silver with 29:58.89.
Fittingly, India signed off their gold rush with impressive wins in the men’s and women’s 4x400m finals.
Li beaten but Yang and Changzhou impress
Asian record-holder Li Ling had hoped to win her third successive continental pole vault title in Bhubaneswar. She opened her campaign with an easy clearance at 4.20m, then passed the next height before having one failure at 4.40m. Teammate Chen Qiaoling, the Asian U20 champion, perfectly scaled that height to take the lead. Li moved to the next bar, 4.50m, but failed with her two remaining attempts and so had to settle for silver.
China’s Olympic finalist Chen Yang enjoyed a comfortable victory in the discus, securing the title with a first-round throw of 60.41m. Two years after narrowly missing a medal, Thailand’s Subenrat Insaeng prevented a Chinese 1-2 finish by taking silver with 56.82m ahead of Lu Xiaoxin (55.27m).
After long jumper Zhang Yaoguang crashed out in yesterday’s qualifying round, China’s hopes rested solely with world indoor bronze medallist Huang Changzhou. The Olympic finalist lived up to expectations and secured the title with a third-round leap of 8.09m.
Hong Kong’s Chan Ming Tai led during the early staged before Huang took the lead, and he ended his series with jumps of 8.03m and 8.01m to secure the silver medal. Japan’s 2014 world U20 bronze medallist Shontaro Shiroyama leapt 7.97m for the bronze. Ankit Sharma, the Indian record-holder at 8.19m, could muster only 7.83m to finish fourth.
Having been handed a surprise defeat in the 100m, Asian record-holder and defending champion Femi Seun Ogunode was toppled again in the 200m. Chinese Taipei’s Yang Chun-Han accelerated well off the curve before going on to win in 20.66. Korea’s Park Bonggo, the fastest qualifier, finished just ahead of Ogunode to take the silver in 20.76.
Kuwait’s Ebrahim Al-Zofairi, who failed to make the finals two years ago, won the men’s 800m ahead of Qatar’s Asian Games bronze medallist Jamal Al-Hayrani, 1:49.47 to 1:49.94. India’s Jinson Johnson took the bronze in 1:50.07.
Darya Maslova completed the distance double by adding the 10,000m gold to her 5000m title from earlier in the championships. Running with Japan’s Yuka Hori, Maslova bided her time before unleashing her finishing effort to win in 32:21.21.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF