Chitra Soman gives India gold in 400m

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BRILLIANT DISPLAY: Chitra Soman bagged the 400m gold in the Asian athletics championships on Friday.
BRILLIANT DISPLAY: Chitra Soman bagged the 400m gold in the Asian athletics championships on Friday.

K. P. Mohan

Anju misses the long jump gold by a centimetre in the last round

AMMAN: After two days of gold drought, India had a day of jubilation as well as frustration in the 17th Asian athletics championships here on Friday as Chitra Soman won the 400 metres and then Anju George missed the long jump gold by one centimetre in the last round.

Two victories in the recent Asian Grand Prix circuit having projected her as the firm favourite here, it was only a question of what time Chitra would return rather than whether she could win the gold. In the event, she timed 53.03, marginally poorer than her season best of 53.01 clocked in the Bangkok leg of the Asian Grand Prix. But that was sufficient to win the gold for the 24-year-old Kerala girl.

Japanese Asami Tanno who came into the home straight almost together with Chitra and was level with 50 metres togo, did not have the finishing power of the Indian and settled for the silver at 53.20s. Sri Lankan Menaka Wickramasinghe was a surprise bronze medallist edging Chinese Zhai Lin (54.17) and Indian National record holder Manjeet Kaur (54.40).

“I am not happy with my timing, but considering the (windy) conditions, this wasn’t bad after all”, said Chitra. She and the other quarter-mile medallists had the privilege of getting their medals from pole vault world record holder Sergey Bubka.

First ever medal

Joseph Abraham won India’s first ever Asian championships medal in the 400m hurdles, but he was not happy with the bronze that he won, especially considering that the gold went to Kazakh Yevgeniy Meleshenko whom he had beaten in the Asian Grand Prix in Guwahati and Pune.

It looked level pegging among Meleshenko, Japanese Yosuke Tsushima and Abraham till the seventh hurdle. That was where Meleshenko gained slightly and that was where the Indian almost stopped and cleared. Meleshenko held off Tsushima for the gold in 50.01 while the Japanese timed 50.14. Abraham’s bronze came in 50.28s. Kuldev Singh (51.71) ended seventh.

The wind, though it helped Anju was also her nemesis in a way. “It was difficult to adjust my speed as the wind was pushing the jumpers through,” said Anju.

Despite a valiant attempt towards the finish, K. M. Binu could not get among the medals in the men’s 400 metres.

The Kerala man has not been in the best of form this season and though he promised much the way he won his heat on the opening day, ahead of Sri Lankan Prasanna Amarasekara who won on Friday in 46.71 secs.

Close finish

In a close finish, Iranians Reza Bouzar (46.90) and Mohammed Afekian (46.93) edged Binu (46.94) in the race for the minor medals P. J. Vinod was lying second after the opening day in decathlon with 3987 points. Iranian Hadi Sepehrzad led with 4019 while Qatari Ahmed Hassan Moussa was third with 3960. India’s Jora Singh was lying sixth with 3542.

Vikas Gowda ended fourth in discus, once again a disappointment for the US-based Indian.

A minute’s silence was observed before the start of the afternoon’s programme in memory of Elizabeth Liau Siew Chin Nicholas, wife of the secretary of the Asian Athletics Association, Maurice Nicholas, who passed away in Singapore on Friday.

The results:

Men: 400m: 1. Prasanna Amarasekara (Sri) 46.71, 2. Reza Bouzar (Iri) 46.90, 3. Mohammaed Afekian (Iri) 46.93; 400m hurdles: 1. Yevgeniy Meleshenko (Kaz) 50.01, 2. Yosuke Tsushima (Jpn) 50.14, 3. Joseph Abraham (Ind) 50.28; Discus: 1. Ehsan Hadadi (Iri) 65.38 (NMR, previous 65.25), 2. Rashid Shafi Al-Dosari (Qat) 63.49, 3. Abbas Samimi (Iri) 61.29, 4. Vikas Gowda (Ind) 60.91.

Women: 400m: 1. Chitra Soman (Ind) 53.01, 2. Asami Tanno (Jpn) 53.20, 3. Menaka Wickramasinghe (Sri) 54.11; 100m hurdles: 1. Mami Ishino (Jpn) 13.26, 2. He Liyuan (Chn) 13.31, 3. Lee Yeon-Kyong (Kor) 13.50; 400m hurdles: 1. Satomi Kubokura (Jpn) 56.74, 2. Ruan Zhuofen (Chn) 57.63, 3. Galina Pdean (Kgz) 59.13; Long jump: 1. Olga Rypakova (Kaz) 6.66w, 2. Anju B. George (Ind) 6.65w, 3. Chung Soon-Ok (Kor) 6.60w.

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