After a day of ignominy for champions and season leaders on Monday, it was time they came back onto the centre-stage to prove their class.

The third day of athletics action in the Asian Games saw World champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal take the women's 1500 metres gold and Asian champion Mohammed Othman Shaween claim the men's metric mile title.

Asian leaders elsewhere also won, with Chinese woman discus thrower Li Yanfeng nailing the gold, and in the process stretching her continental lead with a huge throw of 66.18 in the second round, dashing all Indian hopes; defending champion Tareq Mubarak Taher winning the men's 3000m steeplechase; Qatar's junior sensation, and season leader, Essa Mutaz Barshim claiming the high jump gold, and Uzbek Yulia Tarasova, Asian champion, winning the heptathlon title.

Brilliant Chinese

India, high on hopes, but not adequately prepared for a championship of this stature, a month after the Commonwealth Games, managed two bronze medals, both on expected lines. Krishna Poonia came up with her best championship throw ever, a 61.94m on her first throw, and yet had to settle for bronze against the brilliance of the Chinese, which she conceded.

The 28-year-old Indian Railway employee had taken the bronze in the Doha Asiad also and here she was tipped to get just that, though with her husband/coach, Virendar Poonia, had been optimistic of a medal of higher value.

Heptathlete Pramila Aiyappa, competing in her first Asian Games, at the age of 33, claimed the bronze in a modest field which contained eight athletes to begin with while only six finished.

Her 5415 was nothing much to talk of since she has four marks over 6000 and five others over 5700.

Yet, winning a maiden medal is always an achievement and Pramila was thrilled.

“I have been waiting for this moment for 12 years,” she said. The Karnataka woman dedicated the medal to her husband, and four-year-old daughter Unnathi.

She made it clear that she was not yet ready to pack up since her aim was to qualify for the London Olympics and compete on the biggest stage before thinking of retirement.

Susmita fourth

Susmita Singha Roy, who had started poorly, finished fourth in the heptathlon with 5051 points. There was disappointment for India at the long jump pit where Mayookha Johny (season best 6.64m) and M. A. Prajusha (SB 6.55m) could only manage the seventh and ninth positions with 6.33m and 6.11m respectively.

The gold went rather unexpectedly to Korean Jung Soon-Ok, with a fourth-round jump of 6.53m that bettered Olga Rypakova's third-round effort of 6.50m. The Kazakh, favourite to win the triple jump here, was not among the provisional entries.

Tarasova, who took the bronze (6.49), was also a last-minute re-insertion in the entry list after her name was not shown at least in the lists available on the official website.

Tense

Mayookha looked tense most of the time and reeled off fouls on her last three attempts after producing a series of 6.33, 6.25 and 6.23. Prajusha did worse, with 6.11, foul and 6.05. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) should analyse the causes for the drop in performance levels of Indian athletes, compared to their home shows, invariably in all major championships over the years, barring honourable exceptions.

At least Poonia had been an exception to this phenomenon, though Harwant Kaur, who had a 60.66 in the inter-State meet and 60.16 in the CWG for the silver, could come up with only 57.55. She had a 53.83m in the Asian championships in this city last year.

Middle-distance running can be an exception to the theory of steady improvement of timings through a season. Much can depend on how races develop. Yet, Sandeep Karan Singh had a personal best of 3:42.79 for sixth place in the men's 1500 metres. Chatholi Hamza was seventh.

Japan which would have been the favourite for the title, dropped the baton during the men's 4x100m relay heats and went out. The Indian team clocked 39.62s and qualified for the final. Also making it were the Indian women's sprint relay team and the men's 4x400m relay team.

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