Sunday, November 21, 2010

Asian Games: Double gold for India on the opening day of athletics

Double gold for India on the opening day of athletics
India's Sudha Singh outsprints China's Jin Yuan to win the women's 3000m Steeplechase final at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. (AP Photo)
GUANGZHOU: India opened its athletics campaign in the Asian Games in a spectacular fashion with long distance runners Preeja Sreedharan and Sudha Singh clinching the gold medals in the women's 10,000m and 3000m steeplechase at the Aoti main stadium on Sunday.

To add to the delight, Kavita Raut secured the silver medal behind Preeja in the in the 10,000m race at the Aoti Main Stadium.

28-year-old Preeja, belonging to Kerala's Idukki district, and Commonwealth Games bronze winner Kavita of Maharashtra ran a tactical race by staying back of the pack before making the final effort to put back the bunch of nine other runners and cross the finish line with personal best times.

Preeja clocked 31 minutes, 50.47 seconds, a good two minutes below the Asian and world record of China's Wang Junxia but better than her 32:04s set two years ago at the London Olympic Games qualifying meet.

"I feel very proud to have won the gold medal after missing out on a medal in the Commonwealth Games. I was very disappointed with the Commonwealth Games performance and was determined to do well in the Asian Games," said the short-statured Preeja.

"I am also happy for Kavita for getting the silver medal," she said but could not describe how she overtook the rest of the field at the end.

"I don't know. I just ran, that's all," she said. She also credited the Indian government and her coaches for the victory.

"I lost my father at a very young age and my mother brought us up. I have a brother and sister. She worked in others' houses to run the family," said Preeja.

"I also give credit to the government for the money it spent on the month-long training which we got. I also want to give credit to my coach Nikolai Snesarov of Belarus and the Sports Authority of India," added the golden girl.

Kavita, who too clocked her personal best of 31:51.44, also gave credit for her silver medal to the coaches and the government.

"I'm very happy. I got a medal in CWG and in the Asian Games too. I thank the government, the coaches and ONGC," said the 25-year-old Kavita.

The bronze in this event went to S Habtegebrel of Bahrain while Japan's Kayoko Fukushi, who set the early pace, and Hikari Yoshimoto finished fourth and fifth respectively.

To bring more cheers to the Indian camp was the thrilling victory of Sudha Singh in the day's final event -- the 3000m women's steeplechase -- which had only six runners in it. She also set a new national record in her effort.

The two Indians in fray -- eventual gold medallist Sudha and OP Jaisha, who ended up fifth, -- were abreast of the others in the bunch with Sudha setting the pace after 2000m.

24-year-old Sudha made the decisive kick on the back stretch of the final lap and was in fact leading her nearest rival, eventual silver medal winner Jin Yuan of China, comfortably after the last water jump by ten metres before the host nation's athlete accelerated to close the gap.

Sudha, who was flagging towards the end, saw the Chinese athlete closing down the gap and made one determined effort in the final few metres to put her leg just in front of the Yuan for the gold with a personal best timing of 9 minutes and 55.67 seconds.
Yuan secured the silver clocking 9:55.71 while the bronze went to Japan's Minori Hayakari (10.01.25).

"I never expected to win the gold medal. The Chinese girl gave me a tough fight in the end and I am happy to win the medal," Sudha said later at the press conference.

"I am happy to have improved my time clocked at the Commonwealth Games where I timed 9:57.63 and set a new national record," she said.

Earlier in the day, India's campaign in the blue riband discipline of athletics started on mixed note with high jumper Hari Sankar Roy making it to the final after men's 20km walkers Harminder Singh and Baljinder Singh finished outside the medal bracket.
Roy cleared 2.10m on his first attempt and qualified for the 12-man final to be held on November 23 while the second jumper Nikhil Chittarasu, who also cleared an identical height but only on his second attempt, was knocked out of the competition.

24-year-old Roy went through as the 11th best in the qualifying stage after failing to cross the bar when it was raised to 2.15 metres on all three attempts in Group B competition. Chittarasu also flopped at this height in Group A.

Qatar's Al Mannai Rashidahmed came out on top in the qualifying round by clearing 2.15m while nine other jumpers also soared over the height.

In men's 20-km walk race, the first medal event in the track and field event, India's Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Harminder and Baljinder could not keep up with the fast pace set by the leading bunch and finished sixth and seventh out of nine starters.

Harminder faded away past the 6km mark and clocked one hour, 26 minutes and 33 seconds, three minutes below his personal best of 1:23:00 achieved this season.

Baljinder clocked 1:28:06 and was trailing the leading bunch after only the fifth km.

Wang Hao of China won the gold in a season's best of 1:20:50, his teammate Chu Yafei took the silver in 1:21:57 while South Korea's Kim Hyunsub, who won silver in the 2006 Asian Games, bagged the bronze (1:22:47).

Park Chi Sung of Korea was disqualified by the technical officials for breaching the walk rule.

In other athletics event of the day, Manjeet Kaur and Mandeep Kaur qualified for the final of women's 400m to be held on Monday after managing to secure the last two berths in the eight-competitor field.

However, it was disappointment for India in the men's 400m race as Mortaja Shake and Bibin Mathew failed to make it to the final.

In the men's 5000m final too India cut a sorry figure as Sunil Kumar finished on the eighth position with a season's best of 14:01.76.

In the women's 100m Jyothi Hiriyur Manjunath made it to the semifinals, clocking 12.04 in the heats.

There was further good news for India in the track and field events today as Mohammed Abdul Najeeb Qureshi and Satish Krishnakumar Rane also entered the semifinals after clocking 10.50 and 10.64 in their respective heats.

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