Quartet qualifies for the Worlds; host claims three silver and four bronze medals on final day

The crowd finally had their fill.

India, after having gone through a dry day on Saturday, matched its medal tally of 1-3-5 over the first three days with a final day haul of one gold, three silver and four bronze medals at the Asian athletics championships here on Sunday.

The icing on the cake was none other than the triumph of Nirmala Sheoran, Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and M.R. Poovamma in the women’s 4x 400m relay.

The quartet also made the cut for the next month’s World championships in Moscow.

China expectedly reasserted its overall supremacy with a tally of 16 gold, six silver and five bronze medals but the real surprise was Bahrain finishing second with 5-7-3 ahead of Japan which had a total of 4-6-10.

Though India improved its position by a spot and finished sixth at the Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium, Balewadi, it was a far cry from the second position that it had attained when the championships was held in the country for the first time in 1989. It was in 2007 at Amman that the country had won its last gold and since then had been pushed to the sixth spot in 2009 (Guangzhou) and seventh in 2011(Kobe).

While the win on Sunday was euphoric in more ways than one, there were quite a few other surprises too in Asha Roy and Dutee Chand collaring the silver and bronze medals in the women’s 200m, Jithin C. Thomas sharing the silver with his Iranian rival in the men’s high jump and Satinder Singh getting bronze in 400m hurdles.

There were a couple of disappointments as fancied Renjith Maheswary was beaten to second place in the men’s triple jump and Tintu Luka could only retain her bronze in the women’s 800m.

However, the lingering hurt caused due to these setbacks gave way to ecstasy as the 4x400m quartet won in 3:32.26 as against the WC qualifying time of 3:33.00.

Nirmala, the lead runner, did her best in getting the baton to Tintu in the third position behind Kazakhstan and China. Running the second lap quite brilliantly, the Kerala runner did not let the country and her team-mates down as she took the lead towards the turn and then brought India into the front.

The slight lead was extended to over 20m by Anu and Poovamma, the anchor, ensured her team the gold medal to add to the discus title won by Vikas Gowda.

“We were pretty sure of winning but making the grade for the Worlds was a true bonus,” said the excited girls almost in unison before draping the Indian tricolour and setting off for a well-deserved victory lap. In the 200m, Asha Roy matched the eventual winner Viktoriya Zyabkina (Kazakhstan) stride for stride before the latter powered ahead to push the Indian to second place near the finish.

Dutee Chand, hailing from Orissa, made the event more memorable as she took bronze after being involved in a bunched finish with Japan’s fancied Chisato Fukushima.

Jithin C. Thomas brought home an unexpected shared silver medal in the men’s high jump after being in a jump-off with Bi Xiaoliang (China) and Keyvan Ghanbardezah (Iran) after the trio were tied on height and chances at 2.21m.

All the three had failed to clear 2.24m and the same result followed when the bar was lowered to 2.23m and 2.20m. However, the Chinese was to strike gold at the end of the nail-biting competition when he cleared 2.18m while the other two failed.

The conditions which were as tough as the opening day, with steady rain proving the spoilsport, was one of the reasons for the defeat suffered by Renjith Maheswary in triple jump. “It was tough to keep warmed-up in the rain and consequently my body failed to respond,” said Renjith after he lost gold to China’s Cao Shao by a mere centimetre, 16.77m to 16.76m.

However, here again India was offered a bonus as Arpinder Singh (16.58m) clinched the bronze pushing season leader Roman Valiyev (Kazakhstan) to the fourth spot.

Satinder Singh displayed tremendous technique as he took the 400m hurdles bronze, improving upon his fifth place in Kobe.

The same could not be said about Tintu, who seemed to out-of-sorts in pacing her race, and though she was in lead till the 700m, she was overtaken by China’s Wang Chunyu and Bahrain’s Regasa Genzeb Shumi in the final straight.

Perhaps, as her coach P.T. Usha remarked, it was the lack of competition leading to this meet which cost Tintu and India dear.

Among other winners, Betlhem Belayneh Desalegn (UAE) added the 5000m title to the 1500m gold medal and Saudi Arabia brought the curtain of the five-day meet down with a new meet mark in the men’s 4 x 400m relay.

This article has been edited for a factual error.

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