Sultan Abdul Majeed takes gold in shot put; Shitaye Eshete defends women’s 10,000m title

The conditions were quite tough on the athletes as a steady downpour throughout the nearly three-hour final session on day one of the 20th Asian athletics championships truly dampened the spirits.

With four of the five finals set at the Shiv Chhatrapati Stadium, Balewadi, the wet conditions led to a noticeable slump in the performances of the athletes, who had prepared through the season to turn this continental event into a launch pad for next month’s World championships in Moscow.

Yet, in the given circumstances, it was heart-warming that India notched up two bronze medals as Om Prakash Singh and Mayookha Johny came third in the men’s shot put and women’s long jump in contrasting styles.

While Om Prakash touched a season best of 19.45m to land himself on the podium, Mayookha, as defending champion from Kobe two years ago, was a picture of agony as she battled the bad weather and stifling pain on her right ankle before settling for bronze.

Disappointed

Naturally, both athletes were disappointed with their performances. Om Prakash, who had a season best of 18.91m coming into this meet, started with a 19.18m, which put him in second position before reeling off his best of the day. He had a 19.08m in his third, which was followed by a foul.

The Indian seemed to gain momentum once again as he threw the iron ball 19.41m on his fifth effort.

But in the end, all he could manage was a comparatively disappointing 19.05m on his final throw, behind eventual winner Sultan Abdul Majeed Alheb (Saudi Arabia) and Chang Ming-Huang (Taipei) — 19.68m and 19.61m against their names.

Inderjeet Singh and Satyendra Singh, the two Indians in the competition, were placed fourth and eighth with throws of 19.31m and 18.01m respectively.

Completely shaken

“I am completely shaken, having failed to do my best for India on home turf and also not having achieved what I had set out to do this evening,”

Om Prakash later said. “What I really wanted to achieve was a big throw which not only would have helped India win a gold medal, but thereby gain a direct entry for the World championships. It never happened and I can only curse my luck as the weather gods too seemed poised against me.”

Mayookha, who had won the lone gold for India in Kobe two years ago, too had disappointment writhed all over her face.

The rain had thickened quite considerably by the time the jumpers made their way into the pit at the far end, after the completion of the shot put competitions. So, it was a struggle for those in the fray, but more so for the Kerala athlete as she was already in considerable pain, nursing a ligament tear, and had taken to the competition quite sportingly.

By the time the defending champion could notch up her best distance of 6.30m off her fourth trial, Sachiko Masumi (Japan) and Anastasiya Juravlev (Uzbekistan) were already assured of the first two places, in that order, with jumps of 6.55m and 6.36m respectively. “There was nothing I could do. The rain and the pain was quite a bother. I am not finding excuses, but the fact always remains that I did make it here only because our country was hosting the championships.

“The doctors who attended to me in Bangalore had advised me six weeks’ rest and now I would be returning home for treatment missing the triple jump which is slated for tomorrow.”

2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist M.A. Prajusha was sixth with a best of 6.12m, while V. Neena, the third Indian in the fray, was placed much lower at 10th with a poor 5.75m.

The best act of the day, understandably, came on the track and there was no stopping Ethiopian-born Shitaye Eshete from Bahrain defending her title in the women’s 10,000m, in a new championship record time of 32:17.29.

The 23-year old was firmly in control all through the gruelling 25-lap race and had a lead of atleast 80m over her nearest rival Alia Saeed (UAE), as she came through the winning post and reduced the old meet record of 32.25.27 set by China’s Zhong Huandi at New Delhi in 1989.

Preeja Sreedharan came a valiant fourth, the same position as compatriot Krishna Poonia in the women’s discus.

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