Kavita Raut opened India’s tally with a bronze as the Chinese showed its expected domination, winning two of the five gold medals at stake on the inaugural day of the 18th Asian athletics championships at the Guangdong Olympic Stadium here on Tuesday.
Kavita posted a personal best of 16:05.90 in the 5000 metres, though she and coach Nikolai Snesarev were aiming for somewhere close to 15:40.
In the given conditions, with humidity high, this was the best that the 24-year-old from Maharashtra could have hoped for.
In what proved a dramatic start to the opening day’s track finals, Xue Fei provided the host with its first gold medal, snatching it away from Bahrain’s Tejitu Daba Chalchissa right at the post in the 5000m.
Having taken a lead of around 30 metres with two laps left, Chalchissa, the recent Asian Indoor Games champion, was contend to relax in front, little realising what was happening behind her.
Kavita was in second place with a lap to go, with the Chinese close behind. From about 130 metres to the finish, Kavita put in everything she had to maintain her position, after having kicked seemingly too early from around 300 metres out, but the Chinese was unrelenting. As she surged through the home straight, there was little that Kavita could do except to preserve her third place.
By the time Chalchissa looked around as she neared the finish to see if anyone was threatening her, Xue Fei, the recent Chinese National Games champion, came charging through to beat her, 16:05.19 to 16:05.45.
Jhuma Khatun, India’s second entry in the event, came seventh among nine runners in 17:13.10.
Surendra Singh was withdrawn from the men’s 5,000m to help him concentrate solely on the 10,000m.
Pramila Aiyappa, lying sixth and last after three events in heptathlon with 2188 points, pulled up after 50 metres in the 200 metres, the fourth event, apparently because of an inury. Uzbek Yulia Tarasova led with 3624 points at the half-way stage.
In women’s long jump, M.A. Prajusha (6.15m) and Reshmi Bose (6.13m) took the sixth and seventh places, well below their marks at home this season.
The Indian sprinters, in both sections, exceeded expectations by qualifying for the semifinals scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Sathya Suresh clocked his second best ever at 10.55s in coming second in the third heat of the men’s 100 metres. In another heat, Abdul Najeeb Qureshi timed 10.60s in coming third and making the last-four grade.
In the women’s 100 metres, H.M. Jyothi came second a heat in 11.72s while Sharadha Narayana finished third in another heat in 12.06s to progress. Japanese Chiasto Fukushima (11.37s) and Vietnamese Vu Thi Huong (11.70s) topped the qualifiers’ list.
Chatholi Hamza (3:46.24) qualified for the men’s 1500 metres final as the second fastest behind defending champion Mohammad Uthman Shaween of Saudi Arabia (3:44.82). Also making the grade was Sunil Kumar (3:47.90) who was fifth in a heat but qualified as one of the three ‘best losers’.
Bibin wins heats
In the quartermile, too, India had success with all the runners making the finals. In the men’s 400m, Bibin Mathew won one of the heats in 46.59s while Shakeh Mortaja was third in another heat in 46.98s.
Japanese Yuzo Kanemaru, the Asian Games champion and the leader this season (45.16s), who is the favourite here, clocked 46.15s in winning his heat.
In the women’s 400m, Mandeep Kaur (53.19s) and Manjeet Kaur (53.87s) came second in two different heats behind Japanse Asama Tanno (52.78s) and Chinese Chen Lin (53.68s) respectively.
Men: 5000m: 1. James Kwalia Kurui (Qat) 14:02.90, 2. Mahboob Hasan (Brn) 14:03.44, 3. Essa Rashed Ismail (Qat) 14:04.52.
Hammer: 1. Dilshod Nazarov (Tjk)76.92m, 2. Ali Zenkawi (Kuw) 73.45, 3. Ma Liang (Chn) 70.08.
Women: 5000m: 1. Xue Fei (Chn) 16:05.19, 2. Tejitu Daba Chalchissa (Brn) 16:05.45, 3. Kavita Raut (Ind).
Long jump: 1. Marestella Torres (Phi) 6.51m, 2. Chen Yaling (Chn) 6.28, 3. Sachiko Masumi (Jpn) 6.28.
Shot put: 1. Gong Lijiao (Chn) 19.04m, 2. Liu Xiang Rong (Chn)17.55, 3. Leyla Rajabi (Iri) 16.71.