India's long wait for an athletics gold at the Commonwealth Games is over. Fifty two years after the great Milkha Singh gave the country its first triumph in Cardiff, Krishna Poonia gave the country its second gold, in women's discus, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Monday evening.
And with Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil taking the silver and bronze, India celebrated its first sweep of all the medals in Commonwealth Games history.
“It's fantastic…what could be better than this,” said the 28-year-old Haryana-born Railways star, the Doha Asian Games bronze medallist who was fifth at the last Games in Melbourne. “I dedicate this to all Indians. With this I think we have wiped out everything bad that had happened before the Games.”
Milkha Singh, who won his gold in the 440 yards event at the 1958 Games, was overjoyed too.
“I'm very, very happy. It's a big thing for India,” said the 75-year-old. “And now that we have won this gold, it should inspire our athletes in a big way.”
With the international season almost over, many of the big names were either missing or very weary. Australian World champion Dani Samuels stayed away while New Zealand's former World champion Beatrice Faumuina and South Africa's Commonwealth Games defending champion and African gold medalist Elizna Naude were way below their best. Thus Poona, who threw her personal best 63.69m in the US in April, began as a favourite for the gold.
Poonia, who is coached by former World champion Mac Wilkins in the US and by her husband Virendar Poonia (a former hammer thrower), opened her campaign with a 61.51m throw, which took the pressure off her.
By the third round, with her close friends Harwant Kaur and national record-holder Seema Antil coming up with best throws of 60.16 and 58.46 respectively, it became an all-Indian show.
“Years of sweat and sacrifice have paid off,” said Poonia. “It was very difficult, there were moments when I became very emotional.” But the rewards came in plenty.
Tears for Tintu
For Tintu, however, there were only tears.
Kenya's Olympic 1500m champion Nancy Jebet Langat, also a former junior World 800m champion, began as the big favourite. Tintu took off fast, one felt a bit too fast, she opened up a big lead but by the 500-metre mark, when Langat over took her, Tintu appeared to get the jitters.
Desperately, she tried to work her way through the crowd in the home stretch but appeared to run out of gas.
“I think she was very nervous, When she saw Nancy taking the lead from her at the 500-metre mark, she tried to go all out. That was a wrong strategy,” said Usha. “She should have waited and then made a final push with about 120 metres to go.”
Meanwhile, India stunningly won its men's 4x100 heats and qualified for the final. The host women's 4x400 relay squad also topped its group and made the grade.
In the women's high hurdles, Gayathri Govindaraj, who has a personal best of 13.59s, finished seventh in the final in 13.95 secs.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games