Mutaz Barshim at the 2014 Asian Games (© Getty Images)
There was no world record, or even an improvement on his own Asian record, for Mutaz Barshim and he had to be content with just adding the Asian Games record to his ever-growing list of accolades, but there was no doubt that the Qatari high jumper was the star of the show on the third day of the athletics programme in the South Korean city of Inchon on Monday (29).
Barshim, in his 15th and probably last competition of 2014, had spoken before the event of hoping he was able to make an attempt on Javier Sotomayor’s long standing world record of 2.45m, but the Asian record-holder at 2.43m had to settle for retaining his Asian Games title at 2.35m.
Five men were still in the competition as the bar was raised to 2.29m but only Barshim and Chian’s Zhang Guowei – partners in the Asia-Pacific team at the recent IAAF Continental Cup – cleared, leaving Barshim’s younger brother Muamer to take the bronze medal on countback as he had a flawless record up to and including 2.25m.
The elder Barshim, jumping first, then threw down the gauntlet and went straight over the next height of 2.33m, equalling the Games record held since 1982 by China’s former world record-holder Zhu Jianhua.
However, Zhang stayed in the contest by getting over 2.33m as well, just one centimetre under his personal best, on his third attempt.
Barshim continued to control the competition by making the Games record his own with a first-time clearance at 2.35m, which proved to be a height too far for Zhang.
Sensing, perhaps, that he had run out of steam, Barshim then had the bar moved up to 2.40m rather than an Asian or world record height but after two failures he decided to call it a day and, most likely, a year.
There was more success for Qatar as Mohamed Al-Garni came out on top of a west Asian battle with Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi in the men’s 1500m to add a second title to the one he won over 5000m on Saturday.
Al-Garni proved the stronger finisher down the home straight and won in 3:40.23 to Ramzi’s 3:40.95.
The final event on the track to be decided was the men’s 3000m steeplechase and it had the same outcome at the sharp end as the 1500m concluded an hour earlier, with Qatar’s Abubaker Ali Kamal winning comfortably in 8:28.72 while Bahrain’s 2010 champion Tarek Mubarek Taher was a distant second, more than 10 seconds adrift in 8:39.62.
The women’s 1500m was run as a straight final despite 16 women declaring but the congestion caused no problems for Maryam Yusuf Jamal. Bahrain’s two-time former world champion made up for her male team-mates coming up short and notched up her third successive Games gold medal over the distance.
Jamal clocked 4:09.90, winning the battle for the line against her compatriot Mimi Belete, who was second in 4:11.03.
Londa goes longer
Indonesia’s Maria Natalia Londa got her country’s first Asian Games athletics gold medal since 1998 when she equalled her national record and grabbed the title with 6.55m in the final round of the women’s long jump.
Londa was lying down in eighth place after three rounds and only just qualified for three additional jumps, but finally found her rhythm and reached 6.40m in the fourth round. However, she was still lying second to Vietnam’s Thi Thu Thao Bui, who had jumped 6.44m one round earlier, before pulling out all the stops and becoming her nation’s first ever field event winner at the Asian Games.
Bui tried to respond with the last jump of the competition but had to settle for silver after only making a mark in the sand at 6.33m.
Behind the leading pair, no fewer than three women jumped 6.34m but the bronze went to China’s Jiang Yanfei by virtue of having the better second-best jump.
India’s Seema Antil followed up her silver medal at the recent Commonwealth Games with her first major international title when she took the women’s discus with her fourth-round throw of 61.03m.
The expected challenge from the Chinese throwers never materialised: Lu Xiaoxin and Tan Jian were second and third with 59.35m and 59.03m respectively.
Uzbekistan’s Yekaterina Voronina overcame a first-day deficit of 184 points with wins in the final two events of the heptathlon on the second day to take the gold medal with a personal best of 5912 points.
China’s Wang Qingling had led overnight with 3579 points and increased her advantage to 215 points over her Uzbek rival when she leapt 6.13m in the long jump, 10 centimetres better than Voronina.
However, everything changed during the javelin, Wang’s worst event, while the 22-year-old Voronina is a converted thrower and has competed in the event at the IAAF World Youth Championships.
Voronina launched her implement out to the outstanding distance of 49.53m while Wang could only reach a rather modest 37.12m.
The Uzbek athlete, the 2013 Asian Championships silver medallist, found herself with a 24-point advantage going into the 800m and, determined not to relinquish the gold medal, gritted her teeth to win over two laps of the track in 2:21.21 with Wang coming home just over two seconds adrift.
Wang took the silver medal with 5856 points, just 56 behind Voronina, with the latter’s compatriot Yuliya Tarasova taking the bronze with 5482.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF