United Arab Emirates distance runner Alia Saeed Mohammed took more than 40 seconds off her own 10,000m national record, clocking 31:51.86, to become the first athletics gold medallist at the 2014 Asian Games in the South Korean city of Inchon on Saturday (27).
In addition to her Inchon accolade, history was also made as Mohammed secured her nation’s first ever athletics gold medal at the quadrennial Asian Games, although the UAE has won gold medals in the past at the Asian Championships.
Mohammed, the silver medallist over 25 laps of the track at last year’s Asian Championships where she had set her previous best of 32:39.39 and who also finished second at this year’s Asian Cross Country Championships, made her decisive move with five laps to go.
Despite tiring over the last lap, she still had enough in reserve to hold off China’s current short and long course cross-country champion Ding Chanqin, who came home in 31:53.09, a personal best by almost a minute.
Japan’s Ayumi Hagiwara was also under 32 minutes, taking the bronze medal in 31:55.67.
Mohammed will be aiming to add to her gold medal collection when she competes in the 5000m later in the week.
Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov fulfilled his role as favourite and added a third Asian Games hammer gold to add to the ones he won in 2006 and 2010 with a best effort of 76.82m in the fourth round.
Nazarov’s four final efforts were all over 76 metres and although he was below his best – in fact, only one of his 14 other competitions this season has been worse for distance – he was still more than three metres better than his nearest rival.
China’s Wang Shizhu and Wan Yong took silver and bronze with 73.65m and 73.43m respectively.
Qatar’s two-time world junior champion Ashraf Amjad Elsaify, who might otherwise have expected to be involved in the fight for the medals, had three fouls.
Gong show in the shot
After China had to settle for second place in the first two events decided, Gong Lijiao finally struck gold for the Asian athletics powerhouse when winning the women’s shot put with her second round effort of 19.06m.
It was Gong’s first major international victory after silver at the last Asian Games four years ago, and bronzes at the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as at the 2009 and 2013 IAAF World Championships.
All three of her valid efforts were beyond 18 metres and would have easily won from Iran’s silver medallist Leyla Rajabi, who finished second with 17.80m.
Qatar’s Mohamed Al-Garni is better known as a 1500m runner, the distance at which he won a bronze medal at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships, but a rare outing over 5000m brought rich rewards as he used his finishing speed to hold off his rivals and win in a Games record and personal best of 13:26.13.
In fact, the first seven men home were inside the old Games record of 13:38.37 which had stood for 20 years.
Bahrain’s Alemu Bekele Gebre came home second in 13:27.98, just edging out his compatriot and Asian record-holder Albert Rop, who had to settle for third in 13.28.08.
The last of the five gold medals to be decided on the first day of the athletics programme was the women’s 3000m steeplechase and went to Asian record-holder Ruth Jebet, of Bahrain, in a Games record 9:31.36.
Jebet, the winner at both the 2013 Asian championships and 204 IAAF World Junior Championships, cantered home almost unchallenged almost four seconds clear of her nearest rival but was initially disqualified for apparently stepping on the inside of the track before later being reinstated.
China’s Li Zhenzhu crossed the line second in 9:35.23 while India’s Lalita Babar took the bronze medal in a national record of 9:35.37.
There was also some outstanding running from Bahraini athletes in the preliminary rounds of the men’s and women’s 400m.
Kemi Adekoya, who has been a revelation this year in the 400m hurdles, showed off her flat speed when she sped to a national record of 51.11, which took 0.21 off her own mark set earlier this year and 0.02 off the Games record.
Abbas Abubakar Abbas, still only 18 and the world junior 400m bronze medallist, twice improved the Bahraini junior record.
Having a previous best of 45.93 from earlier in the year, Abbas caused a mild sensation in the first round when he clocked 45.61, the only man under 46 seconds in the heats.
He then went even quicker in his semi-final, flying to a time of 45.17, the second fastest time in the world this year by a junior.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF