Setting ablaze the track, India grabbed four gold medals on a rain-soaked second day of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships, consolidating their top position in the medal table.
Haryana girl Nirmala Sheoran began the gold spree for the hosts by winning the women 400m and soon Muhammad Anas did an encore in the 400 men’s event.
Rajiv Arokia and Jisna Mathew added a silver and a bronze in men’s and women’s 400m respectively.
Nirmala Sheoran wins gold medal in women 400m while Mohammed Anas grabs gold in men’s 400m at #AsianAthleticsChampionships.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) July 7, 2017
More domination was in store for the home athletes as P U Chitra and Ajay Kumar Saroj bagged a yellow metal each in men’s and women’s 1500m race.
Women sprinter Dutee Chand, who is embroiled in a gender case, settled for a bronze in 100m before Tejinder Pal Singh Toor added a silver in men’s shot put with an effort of 19.77m as India bagged four gold, two silver and two bronze on a very productive day.
All the gold winners in this championships get automatic qualification for the World Championships to be held in London next month.
India have now swelled their tally to 15 medals with six gold, three silver and six bronze to sit atop the medal tally. China are second with 4 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze at the end of the second day. They won 2 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze today
The 21-year-old Sheoran clocked 52.01 seconds while young Jisna Mathew (53.32) finish third.
Vietnam’s Quach Thi was second in 52.78 seconds. Veteran Indian M R Poovamma was fourth in 53.36 seconds.
“I knew I could win today but the rain and delay in the race led to slow timing. We have been waiting for long after warm up and it affected the timing. I am very happy to have done the country proud. Now my target is World Championships,” Sheoran said, exuding confidence,” Nirmala said.
Barely five minutes later, Indian men quatermilers Muhammad Anas and Rajiv Arokia finished first and second, clocking 45.77 and 46.14 seconds respectively.
“It’s a dream come true. I was emotional after winning today since I ran four races in two days,” said Anas.
It was then the turn of unheralded Chitra and Saroj to give India two unexpected gold in 1500m as they come triumphant with the crowd watching in disbelief.
The 22-year-old Kerala girl Chitra clocked 4 minute 17.92 seconds to win the race to finish way ahead of second placed Geng Min of China (4:19.15) and Ayako Jinnouchi (4:19.90) of Japan.
“It is a surprise I have won gold. I did not expect it. I don’t know what to say. I am very happy,” said Chitra.
Chitra’s male counterpart, 20-year-old Saroj completed the four-gold haul in a span of stunning 30 minutes by finishing the race in 3 minutes 45.85 seconds.
It is his first major title. He was a tad slower than his personal best of 3:44.4 which he clocked in April last year.
“I will not say that I was expecting gold but I prepared my best, thinking that anything can happen. This is my first major win in a senior international event,” Ajay said.
However, it was a sort of disappointment for the crowd as their most loved athlete Dutee had to settle for a bronze with a time of 11.52secs, behind two runners from Kazakhstan — Viktoriya Zyabkin (11.39secs) and Olga Safronova (11.45secs).
Dutee had qualified for the final round of women’s 100m dash after finishing second in the semifinals heat two with a time of 11.56 seconds while another Odisha athlete Amiya Kumar Mallick was disqualified after a false start in men’s 100m sprint.
“I will not say that I am disappointed. I am happy with a bronze in front of my home crowd and I will take it. I thought I would at least qualify for the World Championships but could not do it due to rain. The conditions are not good for 100m dash,” she said.
Dutee’s coach N Ramesh said, “We knew that these two Kazakh athletes are better runners. There personal bests are better than that of Dutee’s, just above 11 seconds. We are happy we got a medal in front of home crowd. That is a must.”
An elated Athletics Federation of India Secretary C K Valson said that India can produce their best performance this time.
“We are expecting at least five gold medals in the next two days and that will take us to our historical best performance. We can do that this time,” he said.
India’s best came way back in the 1985 Jakarta edition where they won 22 medals (10 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze).