Joseph Abraham won the lone gold medal for India on the opening day of the two-day Asian All Stars athletics meet at Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Saturday but the National record holder failed yet again in attaining the qualification standard for the Olympics in the 400m hurdles.
Abraham had been desperately looking forward to competitions to reach his main goal for the season — the Olympic norm — but as had been the case at home, he failed again in his primary task.
In a modest field in which the top 10 Asians for the season were missing, Abraham clocked 50.22s to convincingly beat Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Kobolov (50.64s) but he was nowhere near the qualification mark of 49.80s.
The 30-year-old Indian, Asian Games champion in 2010, was beaten in the inter-State meet at Hyderabad by Satinder Singh. With individual qualification for the London Games closing on July 8, Abraham is hopelessly placed.
The Indian athletes, supposed to be either gunning for Olympic standard or peaking towards the Olympics, failed miserably in most of the other events.
Tintu Luka clocked a decent 2:01.71 but came third in the women’s 800 metres. It was a below par effort by her current standards.
Asian leader and 2010 Asian Games champion Margarita Mukasheva (nee Matsko) timed 2:00.48 for the gold while Asian champion Truong Thanh Hang of Vietnam was a hundredth of a second ahead of Tintu for the second place.
M.R. Poovamma, the best of the Indian quarter-milers in the absence of suspended stars, timed her poorest since 2006 for the fifth place in 55.22s. She has a personal best of 52.94s, clocked this season. She was injured prior to the Hyderabad meet and it is a mystery why she was included in the team.
The second Indian entry in the 400m, K. Sowjanya, finished seventh in 58.06s, her worst in more than four years.
Sahana Kumari (1.85m) and M.A. Prajusha (13.28m), jumping into a headwind of 4.1m/s, were fifth in women’s high jump and triple jump respectively. Sahana had set a national record of 1.92m and qualified for the Olympics at Hyderabad.
Shot putter Jagroop Ssingh was sixth with just 17.37m, while P. Kunhumohammed, aiming for Olympic qualification in the 400m, was disqualified for a false start.