Athletics

Asian Athletics championship: Gomathi brings home a pleasant surprise

Nation’s darling: Gomathi Marimuthu savours her moment of glory in Doha.

Nation’s darling: Gomathi Marimuthu savours her moment of glory in Doha.  

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Javelin thrower Shivpal and hurdler Jabir qualify for World championships

She may have been a late-starter in athletics, taking the track seriously only at 20, but Gomathi Marimuthu gave the country one of its best moments at the 23rd Asian championships which concluded in Doha on Wednesday.

For Gomathi, life virtually began at 30, an age when women athletes in the country seriously think of hanging up their boots.

Strong field

Running against some of the best in the business, including China’s Asian Games champion Wang Chunyu and Kazakhstan’s former two-time Asiad winner Margarita Mukasheva, Gomathi came out with a smart strategy to grab the 800m gold.

Wang had run in a number of American meets prior to Doha but when Gomathi produced a strong kick, she could do nothing.

“Gomathi ran an excellent race,” Bahadur Singh, the Chief National Coach, told The Hindu on Thursday evening.

Gomathi’s gold was certainly the biggest surprise for India, which finished fourth with 17 medals — three gold and seven silvers — behind Bahrain (11 gold), China (9) and Japan (6).

India had topped the medals table with 12 gold at the 2017 Asians, but many top athletes were missing then as the championships were too close to the London Worlds.

India had also won seven athletics golds at last year’s Jakarta Asian Games, but this time many prominent names like World No. 4 javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, Asiad 800m gold medallist Manjit Singh, hurdler A. Dharun were injured. Asiad 1500m champion Jinson Johnson and junior World champion quartermiler Hima Das also suffered injuries in Doha and missed medals.

While Tajinder Pal Singh Toor’s men’s shot put gold was expected, P.U. Chitra’s yellow in the women’s 1500m was also a bit of a surprise, despite the 23-year-old being the defending champion.

“The total number of medals was as per my expectation. But we missed four or five medals, in the men’s 800m and 1500m men (through Jinson’s injury) and in the men’s triple jump,” said Bahadur.

And, Shivpal Singh’s 86.23m for the javelin throw silver was as good as gold.

“He was nowhere in the Asian Games after suffering an injury, but in Doha, he was very impressive. M.P. Jabir’s personal best 49.13s in the 400m hurdles was also a top performance.”

Incidentally, both Shivpal (No. 2 in 2019 World performance list) and Jabir (No. 5) have achieved the qualification standards for this September’s World Championships in Doha.

There were many others who produced personal bests, including Gavit Murli Kumar (5000 & 10,000m), Parul Chaudhary (women’s 5000m & steeplechase) and Sanjivani Jadhav (women’s 10,000) and of course, Dutee Chand, who lowered her own 100m National record to 11.26s.

The Asians also proved that our athletes are capable of raising their performance if they are offered quality international exposure and this is where the exclusion of talented high jumper Tejaswin Shankar from the team was a big let down.

Big disappointments

The big disappointments came from javelin thrower Davinder Singh Kang, the lone Indian to qualify for the final at the 2017 Worlds, who could only manage 71.58m for the 10th spot, quartermilers Muhammed Anas and Arokia Rajiv’s and Dutee Chand’s (100m) medal miss and Praveen Chitravel’s ‘no mark’ in triple jump.

What about the relays? Let’s talk about them another day.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 8:53:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/asian-athletics-championship-gomathi-brings-home-a-pleasant-surprise/article26945647.ece

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