Bahraini distance runner Shitaye Eshete (© Getty Images)
A steady drizzle on the opening day of the 20th Asian Athletics Championships in the Indian city of Pune brought forth frowns on the faces of the field event competitors but for Bahrain’s Shetaye Eshete it was a time to showcase her considerable talent in distance running on Wednesday (4).
Eshete, the defending champion in the women’s 10,000m, accounted for the lone championship record to fall on the first day, clocking 32:17.29 at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex late in the evening to better the record of 32:25.27 set by China’s Zhong Huandi in New Delhi 24 years ago.
Sixth over 25 laps of the track at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the bronze medallist at the 2010 Asian Games, Eshete trailed Japan’s Ayumi Hagiwara initially, with Alia Saeed of the United Arab Emirates providing them with company for much of the race after the trio broke away from the rest of the field early.
It was obvious the medals would be decided between the three. As the rain intensified, Hagiwara began to wilt but Eshete seemed to revel in the conditions.
With eight laps to go, she made her move to the front. Saeed followed her, briefly taking the lead but Eshete’s pace proved too much for her and it was no-contest after 7000m.
Eshete led by more than 60 metres at the bell and she sprinted away to the finish in glorious fashion, deservedly lapping up the applause from the stands. Saeed clocked 32:39.39 for the silver while Hagiwara struggled home in third place with 32:47.44.
China won two of the other four gold medals decided on the first day, in the men’s Pole Vault and the women’s Discus Throw, while Japan and Saudi Arabia claimed one gold medal apiece to set the show rolling.
It was almost a solo performance at the Pole Vault pit where China’s Xue Changrui braved the conditions to emerge the winner at 5.60m.
His closest challenger, compatriot Lu Yao, had bowed out after clearing 5.20m but Changrui soldiered on, clearing 5.40m and 5.60m on his first attempts. He finally called it a day in the difficult conditions after his first try at a championships record height of 5.76m was met with failure.
China’s other gold medal came in the women’s Discus Throw. Bothered by constant drizzle, unfortunately none of the throwers could come close to their best. Su Xinyue, who has a best of 61.67m this season, won the gold with an effort of 55.88m, the poorest winning throw in thirty years.
In a close contest, another Chinese athlete, Jing Fengjing, won the silver with 55.70m and Chinese Taipei’s Li Tsai-Yi picked up the bronze with 55.32m. India’s 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Krishna Poonia had to settle for fourth place with 55.01m.
Sultan Abdulmajeed Al-Hebshi, the Asian Games champion in 2006 and 2010, finally nailed the gold he was looking for in the men’s Shot Put. The burly Saudi Arabian took time to find his range but, when he did, his rivals had no answer.
Al-Hebshi tossed his implement out to 19.68m in the fifth round, after taking the lead with a fourth-round effort of 19.60m. Chinese Taipei’s defending champion Chang Ming-Huang, the Asian leader this season, briefly threatened with a 19.61m in the fifth round but Al-Hebshi responded quickly.
India’s Om Prakash Singh, champion in 2009 and bronze medallist in 2011, settled for the third place again after his 19.45m toss in the second round, which had briefly raised home hopes.
Al-Hebshi was pleased with his triumph. “It has taken a while in coming but I am happy. Even when I trailed, I was telling myself to concentrate on my strength and technique,” said the 30-year-old, a sergeant in his country’s navy.
With rain troubling the women long jumpers, the competition never rose to any great heights.
Japan’s Sachiko Masumi took home the gold medal with a fourth-round leap of 6.55m, leaving Uzbekistan’s Anastasiya Juravleva in second position with 6.36m. India’s defending champion Mayookha Johny, bothered by an ankle sprain, could only manage 6.30m for third place.
The Decathlon reached the half-way stage with the favourite, Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan, holding a narrow lead over Japan’s Akihiko Nakamura. Karpov is on 4165 points, just 28 points ahead of his Japanese rival.
In the men’s 100m, Qatar's Samuel Francis, the continental record-holder at 9.99 seconds, looked impressive in his first round heat, timing 10.17 seconds.
A correspondent for the IAAF