BHUBANESHWAR: In a stunning show of dominance, India clinched five gold to top the medal tally for first time in the history of Asian Athletics Championships, pushing China to second spot, in their most successful campaign in the continental flagship event on Sunday.
With today’s 5 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze, India ended the four-day championships on top with 29 medals (12 gold, 5 silver and 12 bronze), their highest ever medal haul.
India’s earlier best came way back in the 1985 Jakarta edition where they had won 22 medals (10 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze).
China ended this edition at the second position with 8 gold, 7 silver, 5 bronze. They won 3 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze today.
Kazakhstan finished third with 4 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze while Iran ended on fourth with 4 gold and 1 bronze.
Japan had topped the medal tally in the first five editions of the Asian championships from 1973 to 1981, while China’s domination began from 1983 at Kuwait City and continued till the previous edition at their home venue in Wuhan two years ago.
India snapped China’s monopoly this time though their northern neighbours fielded only a second string team here with their athletes reserving their best for the upcoming World championships in London next month.
The host country, however, suffered a huge setback as their 800m runner Archana Adhav was disqualified, after being initially declared as the gold medal winner, for pushing Sri Lankan rival Nimali Waliwarsha Konda from behind near the finishing line.
Sri Lanka won their protest and the gold medal was awarded to their athlete Konda. India requested to reconsider the decision but the jury of technical delegates refused, saying that it was an unanimous decision to disqualify Archana.
India thus lost a yellow metal in dramatic circumstances. Defending champion Tintu Luka also did not finish the race as she pulled out in the second lap.
Despite the setback, the Sunday crowd at the Kalinga Stadium were on the edge of their seats most of the time as India kept winning gold medals one after another under humid conditions.
It was heptathlete Swapna Barman who gave India the first gold of the day (after Archana was qualified) as she collected a total of 5942 points from the seven events.
The 20-year-old from Bengal collapsed just after crossing the 800m race, the last of the seven events, and she was taken for immediate medical attention.
Japan’s Meg Hemphill was second with 5883 points while another Indian Purnima Hembram was third with 5798 points.
After that Lakhsmanan Govindan took the centrestage as he grabbed his second gold of the championships by winning the men’s 10,000m event in 29 minute and 55.87 seconds. He and eventual silver winner compatriot Gopi Thonkanal (29:58.89) had enough energy in their tank to have a sprint contest towards the end.
Lakhsmanan turned out to be the most successful Indian as he had already won a gold in the 5000m race on the opening day. He had won a bronze and a silver in the 5000m and 10,000m in the last edition in China.
Gopi Thonkanal and Lakhsmanan Govinda. (PTI Photo)
“I could not win a gold in the two events in China but since then I have improved a lot. Though the timings were slow due to humid conditions, I’m happy to have won two gold medal for the country. I hope to improve my best timing in the World Championships,” he said after winning the gold.
World junior record holder javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra struggled in his initial attempts but got his touch in time to clinch the gold with a final throw of 85.23m. Devinder Singh Kang, who was embroiled in a marijuana positive test case, was third by clearing a distance of 83.29m.
India fittingly wrapped up the championships by winning gold in the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay races to send the packed crowd to wild celebrations.
The men’s quartet of Kunhu Muhammad, Muhammad Anas, Rajiv Arokia and Amoj Jacob clocked 3 minute 2.92 seconds to win the relay race, while the women’s team of Nirmala Sheoran, M Povamma, Jisna Mathew and Debashree Mazumdar clocked 3:31.34 to ran away winners.
In men’s 800m race, India won a bronze through Jinson Johnson, who clocked 1 minute 50.07 seconds.
However, the crowd favourite Odisha duo of Dutee Chand and Srabani Nanda fell out of medal bracket in the women’s 200m race as they finished fourth and fifth, clocking 23.59secs and 23.67secs respectively. The same was the case with local lad Amiya Kumar Mallick, who finished seventh in men’s 200m sprint in 21.03secs.