Mayookha Johny has finally an international medal; a gold at that. The talented long jumper conquered a tough field in rain, at 6.56 metres, to add to the joy of the Indian squad that had earlier in the day on Thursday witnessed Vikas Gowda take the silver in the discus event.
The opening day of the 19th Asian athletics championships was marred by rains, not unexpectedly. But it would be remembered by Mayookha as the day when she broke into big championship league.
The 22-year-old Indian was not aiming for a medal, she and coach Shyam Kumar would tell later. She was aiming for 6.65 metres that would help her make it to the World championships in Daegu, Korea, next month as well as to the London Olympics next year.
Mayookha's first reaction as she came into the ‘mixed zone' was, “but I couldn't get the qualification mark.”
Little did she realise then that by winning the Asian title she was getting an automatic qualification to the World championships, with a mark that would be considered equivalent to the ‘A' standard (6.75m).
By the time she returned to the ‘mixed zone' after the medals ceremony, Mayookha knew she had made it to Daegu at least. “Now I am happy”, she said, sounding rather modest about her achievement that puts her alongside Anju George as the Indians to have won Asian long jump titles.
“I am thankful to God, my parents and my coach,” said the Kerala girl. “Of course to all who have contributed towards shaping my career,” she quickly added.
“I am happy she won the title, but not satisfied with the performance,” was Shyam Kumar's initial reaction. The conditions, both Mayookha and Shyam agreed, were tough. The track had slowed down considerably after rains kept coming down almost through the day.
The better-rated jumpers, Korean Jung Soon-Ok (PB 6.76m) and Yuliya Tarasova (season best 6.68m) could not cope with the conditions and went out of the medals bracket.
Mayookha, who had a season best 6.63m (personal best 6.64m), had her winning jump in the second round after having opened with 6.34m.
She had two fouls before she touched 6.52 and 6.50.
Chinese Lu Minjia (6.52 in second round) and Japanese Saeko Okayama (6.51 in last round) took the silver and bronze.
The second Indian, M.A. Prajusha, finished sixth with 6.27, a rung below the defending champion, Marstella Torres of the Philippines (6.34). Prajusha had three fouls.
Gowda, bronze medal winner in the Asian Games, following a doping disqualification of a Qatari, took the silver behind the favourite, Iranian Ehsan Hadadi who took his fourth Asian title in a row, at 62.27m.
Gowda's silver came at 61.58, his fifth throw. The US-based Indian had been in tremendous form this season, crossing 64 metres on three occasions. The wet circle hampered all throwers this day and Gowda was happy that he was not unduly disturbed by the conditions.
Asian Games gold medallist Preeja Sreedharan (33:15.55) grabbed the bronze in the women's 10,000 metres, where Bahrain's Ethiopian ‘imports', Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel (32:47.80) and Kareema Jaseem Saleh, (32:50.70) swept the top two spots.
Indian Kavita Raut, who took the silver in the last Asian Games, was lapped and eventually finished sixth among seven runners, in 35:24.35.
Shakeh Mortaja (47.63s) was eliminated in the first-round heats of the men's 400 metres. Decathlete Bahart Inder Singh (3961 points) was in second place at the half-way stage behind Japanese Akihiro Nakamura (4044). Iranian Hadi Seperhzad was on 3804.
The results: Men: 10,000m: 1. Mahboob Ali Hassan (Brn) 28:35.49, 2. Bilsuma Shugi Gelasa (Brn) 28:36.30, Akinobu Murasawa (Jpn) 28:40.63; 5. Suresh Kumar (Ind) 29:37.62, 7. Kheta Ram (Ind) 30:31.85; Discus: 1. Ehsan Hadadi (Iri) 62.27, 2. Vikas Gowda (Ind) 61.58, 3. Wu Jian (Chn) 56.61.
Women: 10,000m: 1. Shitaye Habtegebrel (Brn) 32:37.80, 2. Kareema Jaseem Saleh (Brn) 32:50.70, 3. Preeja Sreedharan (Ind) 33:15.55; 6. Kavita Raut (Ind) 35:24.35; Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny (Ind) 6.56, 2. Lu Minjia (Chn) 6.52, 3. Saeoko Okayama (Jpn) 6.51; Hammer: 1. Masumi Aya (Jpn) 67.19, 2. Liu Tingting (Chn) 65.42, 3. Yuka Murofushi (Jpn) 62.50; Javelin: 1. Liu Chunhua (Chn)58.05, 2. Wang Ping (Chn) 55.80, 3. Yuka Sato (Jpn) 54.16.