For once, an Indian could do no wrong either on the track or the field. Day Two of athletics competition at the Asian Games saw an Indian on the podium — the men’s 1500m had two — in every single event scheduled for October 1 as India reaped two gold, four silver and three bronze medals on one of the most productive days in athletics on a dramatic day.
The two golds were a contrast — Tajinderpal Singh Toor had to dig deep to defend his shot put title and he did it off his very last throw of 20.36m while Avinash Sable, the man perennially under the microscope, led from start to finish for a new Asian Games 3000m steeplechase record of 8:19:50 that was almost eight seconds slower than his season’s best and still three seconds faster than the previous one and four seconds adrift of the second-placed Ryoma Aoki of Japan.
Toor, having struggled with injuries and surgeries for a long time now, admitted he’s never had the rub of luck. “I had just four throwing sessions before coming here because of groin injury. I was under pressure after two foul throws and changed my throwing centre and managed to stay inside the area on the 3rd. When he (Mohamed Daouda Tolo of Saudi Arabia) got ahead in the 4th throw, I knew I just had to push myself for that gold. But I am used to it, won’t give up,” the gentle giant said.
Sable, on the other hand, had much to prove after criticism of his disappointing performance at the recent World Championships, and he did it in style. “I was determined to win gold and had decided I would keep my pace and run at that. At the World Championships that was my mistake, I followed someone else. If my strength is my pace, why should I run at someone else’s? So I stuck to my plan,” he explained.
The silvers came across the board – Harmilan Bains in 1500m, which she says is her main event but has participated in fewer than the 800m; Sreeshankar Murali with a massive 8.19m in his 4th attempt to finish with three 8mplus jumps to end the season; Ajay Kumar Saroj in the men’s 1500m with 3:38:94 in his maiden Asiad to push defending champion and senior Jinson Johnson to 3rd spot and of course, Jyothi Yarraji to round up the day in a dramatic 100m Hurdles that saw her first disqualified for a false start, then reinstated after protest and Chinese Yanni Wu sent out, who was then allowed to run under protest and finishing 2nd before being DQed to allow 3rd-placed Jyothi to finish 2nd.
“I felt only one thing at that moment, why have they given me a false start? It’s very disappointing for something like this to happen just when I am focussing on the race, it’s like being totally blind-sided. I didn’t understand anything but I fought for myself and thankfully it ended well,” a still shaken Jyothi said.
Also finishing on the podium was Agasara Nandini in her maiden major heptathlon with a personal best of 5712 points, just four ahead of the fancied, decorated and defending champion Swapna Burman, who was understandably inconsolable. The medal tally for the day was rounded up by the indefatigable Seema Punia who, at 40, became the oldest Indian female athletics winner with a season’s best of 58.62m in the discus throw behind the Chinese duo.