India finished on the top of the medals tally at the Asian Athletics Championships ahead of China and Kazakhstan on the second and third place. Indian athletes managed to secure a total of 29 medals of which 12 were gold. This India’s by far the best performance in the Asian Championships. The previous best was right back in Jakarta in 1985 where India secured a total of 22 medals comprising of 10 gold.
The performance of the Indian athletes was notable from the first day itself. Manpreet Kaur and Govindan Lakshmanan gave India a strong start on the first day to hold the top position of the tally and the athletes did not disappoint later to lose the position even once. The major focus of the players now would be on the World Championships next month in London. All the gold winners from this competition automatically qualified for the World Championships strengthening the Indian bid on the international stage.
We take a look at all the athletes who succeeded in bringing home the yellow metal for the nation in the Asian Championships.
Manpreet Kaur won the first gold for India in the competition on the first day. She made an 18.28m throw to secure the penultimate position. She is currently the World no.1 rank shot putter after her 18.86m throw at the Asian Grand Prix in China this year. She is also a national record holder in the shot put and a national weightlifting champion in 75+ kg category.
“I was confident of winning the title on home soil and was mentally prepared to cross the 18m mark,” said Manpreet. “There was a bit of pressure but I settled down as the event progressed. My performance today will help me mentally gear up to face stiff challenge in the global competition,”
The second gold medal on the first day came from the men’s track. Indian ace Lakshmanan pulled out a great performance on the final lap to take down his opponents from the lead. He overcame four runners in the last 300m to take the gold.
“I had been preparing for this day since November last. Had been training with other runners at the high altitude of Ooty. To prepare for humid weather sometimes I trained in the afternoon, it worked out for me as I had enough energy to outclass my rivals in the last lap,” Lakshmanan said.
Hailing from Haryana, 21-year-old Nirmala created a sensation when she qualified for the 2016 Olympics clocking 51.48 at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships in July 2016. She bettered her personal best by over 2 seconds in the event in the time span of just 2 years. The Indian veteran M.R. Poovamma’s national record was also taken over her. She clocked a 52.01 at the Asians to secure the top spot over Vietnam’s Qauch Thi (52.78).
“I knew I could win today but the rain and delay in the race led to slow timing. We have been waiting for long after warm up and it affected the timing. I am very happy to have done the country proud. Now my target is World Championships,” Sheoran said
The national record holder for the 400m, Muhammad Anas is one of India’s biggest hopes at the World Championships. Clocking a sub-45 second mark at the heats of the Asian championships, Anas is well on his way for the global challenge as well. Aged only 22, Anas has a long path of improvement ahead of him. He showed his worth at the international level when he became the third only Indian to qualify for the Olympics in the 400m after Milkha Singh and K.M. Binu.
“It’s a dream come true. I was emotional after winning today since I ran four races in two days,” said Anas after his triumph.
A long distance runner from Kerala, PU Chitra bagged her first major international senior gold medal at this Asian Championships. She has been impressive in all the major school events at the national and international level before this and is now her way for her premier appearance at the World Championships.
Following her consistency at the 1,500m race she was fondly named ‘Queen of Asia in the mile’, “Of course, I did not expect gold. My personal time before this was around 4 minutes 24 seconds which I did last year. This time I won the Federation Cup gold to make it to the national squad. Before entering the track, all I wanted was a medal as usual. But in the final, with 250m to go for the finish, I got a sudden energy and surged ahead and finished first. It was like surreal and it was great to be called Asian queen in the mile,” said Chitra
Ajay was one of the biggest surprise wins for India in this competition. The 20-year-old clocked 3:45.85 to finish the 1,500m which is just a second more than his personal best. He is to the best of his forms moving on the international stage at this age. This being his first international medal we can only hope for better results in the bigger events.
“I will not say that I was expecting gold but I prepared my best, thinking that anything can happen. This is my first major win in a senior international event,” said an overjoyed Ajay.
The only gold medal from the third day of the tournament to keep India on the top spot came for the women’s long distance runner Sudha Singh. The national record holder in the event for 7 years finally managed to secure her first gold in the competition after 3 consecutive silvers in the previous editions. Her best performance was seen in the 2010 Asian Games where she secured gold clocking 9:55.37.
“I am very happy to win this gold. This is my top level competition after Rio Olympics. I was down with swine flu after the Rio Olympics and I was down for five-six months and after that, I started training slowly and steadily. So, this win is special. It is a slow timing but the conditions are not that good,” she said after her win.
Swapna gave her personal best performance of 5942 points at the heptathlon to take the gold medal at the event ahead of Meg Hemphill of Japan. She made a comeback from an injury and this was her first major event since. Her coach was still uncertain of her fitness before the event, but her sure will power made her not only take the top spot but with a new personal record.
“Everybody thought I would be finished due to injury. But I never gave up thanks to my sir’s untiring hard work along with me and unbelievable support.” She said after her victory.
The only Indian to take two gold medals at the Championship was Lakshmanan who after taking the gold in the 5,000m on the opening day, managed to take another in the 10,000m on the final day. He had won a bronze and silver in the respective events in the previous edition in China but succeeded in triumphing this time.
“I could not win gold in the two events in China but since then I have improved a lot. Though the timings were slow due to humid conditions, I’m happy to have won two gold medals for the country. I hope to improve my best timing in the World Championships,” he said after winning the gold.
The junior world record holder, Neeraj Chopra produced India’s third gold medal on the final day of the tournament. It was a great comeback from the athlete as he was behind Qatar’s B.A. Ahmed (83.70m) till his last throw of 85.23m.
“I was not feeling good initially and it took time for me to hit my stride. I knew I just needed one big throw and I also felt that I was capable of it. But somehow in the early part of the competition, I just didn’t feel the rush. But I knew that I just needed to switch on and for me, it happened at the right time,” Chopra said
The Indian Men’s relay team comprising of Muhammad Anas, Kunhu Muhammad, Rajiv Arokia and Amoj Jacob clocked 3:2.92 to take the gold at the relay event. It was the second medal for Anas and Arokia after their individual performances at the 400m stretch.
The women’s team including Nirmala Sheoran, M. Povamma, Jisna Mathew and Debashree Mazumdar too succeeded in grabbing the gold similar to their male counterparts. Nirmala secured her second gold but only in a team event, whereas it was the first for Jisna who won bronze at the individual 400m finals.