Silver medals for Prem Kumar and Sudha Singh; bronze for Samarjit and Hemasree
India had a satisfying day at the office on the third day of the 20th Asian athletics meet at the Shiv Chhatrapati stadium, Balewadi on Friday. K. Prem Kumar and Sudha Singh came up with silver-medal winning efforts while Samarjit Singh and J. Hemasree claimed a bronze each.
Much was expected from Prem and Sudha given the form that they displayed through the early part of the season. Nevertheless their effort was still creditable as they were pipped at the top of the podium by athletes who showed superior class.
The 20-year-old Chennai lad’s silver ended a medal drought for India in the men’s long jump dating back to Sanjay Singh Rai’s silver at the 2000 Jakarta meet.
Only the fourth Indian to cross the coveted 8m-mark while winning the pet event in the inter-State meet in Chennai last month, what also raised hopes on the St. Joseph’s Academy trainee was his effort of 7.85m in the qualifiers on Thursday.
Sadly, nothing turned out the way Prem hoped for on Friday evening. A steady headwind spoilt his calculations and made him adjust his run-up all through the competition.
He was, however, always assured of a medal after he started off with a leap of 7.64m, a mark which was only behind the Chinese duo of Wang Jianan and Tang Gongchen.
Prem Kumar solidered on with jumps of 7.54m, 7.63m, 7.86m and 7.68m through the next four rounds before he nailed his best for the day — an impressive 7.92m — off his sixth.
By then Jianan had a 7.94m off his fifth before signing off with a jump that measured one centimetre better. Gongchen, the early leader, was third with a best of 7.89m.
“Even though I am happy at having won silver, it pains that I could not achieve my best today. I had hoped of doing a life best of 8.10m this evening which would have helped me gain the ‘B’ standard qualifying mark for the next month’s World championships. The wind and the rain towards the end of the competition spoilt my chances,” Prem Kumar said.
Sudha Singh encountered a far superior rival in Bahrain’s teenage sensation — the Kenya-born Ruth Jebet — who set up a blistering pace to take the wind out of the sails of the Indian, the season leader in the event until this evening.
The 17-old-year finished with a new meet record of 9:40.84 as against the 9:56.27 turned in by Sudha.
“It is my sheer bad luck that the event got underway 25 minutes later than scheduled,” a disappointed Sudha said before adding, “consequently my body was tight and blew away my chances as I was in no position to match strides with my rival. I had expected to do at least 9:43 and I am awfully disappointed that I could not put up my best show.”
Samarjit Singh threw a personal best of 75.03m to land an unexpected javelin bronze. In contrast to Prem Kumar and Sudha Singh, Samarjit was a truly contended man.
“I had just a single good throw off my second effort, the rest being no marks. Had I been able to reel off a good series, I could have even done better.
“I am here because of my parents and I am sure that they would very much happy at me having won a medal,” the Rajasthan thrower said.
J. Hemasree’s bronze in the women’s 100m hurdles was a lucky break as the disqualification of Japan’s Hitomi Shimura and Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Philipenk, who had initially finished third and fourth, led the Indian to be elevated to third place.
Elsewhere, Wang Zheng hurled the hammer to a new meet mark of 72.78m in the women’s section in an expected Chinese 1-2. It also turned out to be a memorable day for the United Arab Emirates which won its first ever gold in the women’s section in the history of the championships through Betlhem Belayneh in the 1,500m final, a race in which Indian Sini A. Markose led almost all through before finishing fourth.