Gold medals in 4x400m women’s relay and women’s discus throw, highlighted India’s performance at the 2014 Asiad athletics. India’s gold count, did go down from 5 in 2010 to just 2 in 2014. However, some spirited performances and surprise bronze medals ensured that the overall medal count in Athletics went up from 12 in 2010, to 13 in 2014.
The quartet of Priyanka Panwar, Tintu Luka, Mandeep Kaur and M Poovamma blitzed through the field to defend India’s gold and set a new Games record. They improved upon the earlier Asian Games record of 3:29.02 which was also set by an Indian relay team in 2010.
The victory at this year’s Asiad is even more laudable as the team faced hard times after the 2010 Games. Six of our top runners including Priyanka Panwar and Mandeep Kaur were embroiled in doping controversy and received a 2-year suspension. Despite the odds, the way they came back and performed was noteworthy.
Women’s Discus Throw gold
Discus Thrower Seema Punia who had been in scintillating form since the Commonwealth Games continued in the same vein by bringing home the women’s discus throw gold. Seema who had won the silver at Glasgow, was the only one in the field to have a throw of over 60m. She achieved her best throw of 61.03m in her fourth attempt.
China’s Xiaoxin Lu and Jian Tan took the silver and bronze respectively. Compatriot Krishna Poonia ended in fourth place.
12 years after Neelam Jaswant Singh’s discus throw gold at the 2002 Busan Games, India had won gold in the same event again.
Seema Punia had to overcome lots of hardship to reach this pinnacle. She had missed the last two Asiad – in 2006 she had to opt out because of a doping allegation and in 2010 she could not meet the qualification criteria. So this medal was surely a most treasured one for her.
Men’s Discus Throw silver
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vikas Gowda lived up to the expectations by winning a silver in the men’s discus throw. The Mysore-born Gowda, who trains in Arizona achieved a best throw of 62.58 metres in his second attempt. His last three attempts were all judged fouls. So even though his fifth throw was apparently above 65m, it didn’t count.
The gold went to Ehsan Hadadi of Iran for a throw of 65.11m. This is Hadadi’s third consecutive Asiad gold.
As for Vikas, he went one better than last time as he had captured the bronze medal at the Guangzhou Asian Games.
Women’s 20km walk silver
Khushbir Kaur scripted her name in history by becoming the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in women’s 20km walk. With a timing of 1:33:07, she shattered the national record – her own record set at 2014 Asian Walking Championships in Japan.
The 21-year-old from Amritsar is a huge success story at this year’s Asian Games. It was a determined and gutsy effort from Kaur who couldn’t even afford a pair of shoes when she won the junior national silver medal in 2008.
Women’s 800m silver
Sprinter Tintu Luka timed her pace well to better her bronze winning effort at Guangzhou and end with a silver in the women’s 800m final. The PT Usha protégé clocked 1:59.19s which also happened to be her season’s best.
The gold medal went to Kazakhstan’s Mukasheva Margarita, who broke the Games record with a timing of 1:59.02s while the bronze was clinched by China’s Zhao Jing who finished in 1:59.48s.
Women’s Hammer Throw silver
Manju Bala’s silver medal in women’s hammer throw came under unusual circumstances. Originally, she had won the bronze with a distance of 60.47m. But her bronze was later on upgraded to silver after the Chinese gold medal winner Zhang Weinxiu failed a dope test. After the revision, the gold went to Chinese Wang Zheng for her best effort of 74.16m.
Women’s 400m bronze
MR Poovamma bagged the bronze in women’s 400m. Poovamma clocked 52.36secs to finish third behind Adekoya of Bahrain who clocked 51.59secs and Vietnam’s Thi Lan Quach who had a timing of 52.06secs.
Men’s 400m bronze
Rajiv Arokia, an army runner won a surprise bronze in men’s 400m. Arokia posted a personal best timing of 45.92 seconds. The gold went to Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Ahmed Masrahi for a Games record timing of 44.46 seconds and Abubakar Abbas of Bahrain took the silver for a timing of 45.62 seconds.
Women’s Javelin Throw bronze
With a personal best throw of 59.53m, Annu Rani took the bronze in women’s javelin throw. She achieved her best throw in her very first attempt. Her previous best was 58.83m at the National Championship in Lucknow this year.
Men’s Shot put bronze
Inderjeet Singh swelled India’s athletics medal haul by adding the men’s shot put bronze. His best throw of 19.63m came on his fifth attempt. Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhebshi won the gold for a throw of 19.99m while the silver went to Chinese Taipei’s Chang Ming Huang for an effort of 19.97m.
Inderjeet had burst into prominence by winning the World University Games silver in Kazan last year. This was yet another vindication of his immense talent. And to think that he did everything on his own, without a coach makes his achievement even more creditable.
Men’s 3000m Steeplechase bronze
Naveen Kumar won the bronze in men’s 3000m Steeplechase after putting up a personal best timing of 8:40.39 secs. The gold was clinched by Qatar’s Abubaker Ali Kamal for a timing of 8:28.72 secs while Bahrain’s Tareq Mubarak Salem Taher picked up the silver clocking 8:39.62 secs.
Women’s 1500m bronze
OP Jaisha bagged the bronze in women’s 1500m. Her timing was four minutes 13.46 seconds. The gold and silver both went to Bahrain. Maryam Yusuf Isa Jamal finished first in 4 min 09.90 secs followed by Belete Gebregeiorges in 4 min 11.03 secs.
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase bronze
Lalitha Babar’s bronze in this event had a bit of drama added to it. She had set a new national record on her way to finishing third. Later on the eventual gold medallist Ruth Jebet from Bahrain was disqualified for cutting the lane and Lalitha and India’s Sudha Singh (who finished fourth) were reported to be upgraded to silver and bronze respectively.
However Ruth Jebet’s gold medal was eventually reinstated after an appeal. And that made sure that Lalitha had to be content with just a bronze. China’s Li Zhenzhu had finished second in this event.
Reasons for decline in India’s Gold Haul
With many Arab countries opting to provide citizenship to African runners in a bid to quickly expand their medals tally, India lost out on a few golds. Bahrain is the biggest example as it clinched as many as 9 gold medals with the help of its African imports.
In 2010, India had clinched the 2nd spot in Asiad athletics. In 2014, they were placed 6th. While the Africans definitely posed a big threat, It is nice to see that India still managed to thwart their challenge and put up an overall commendable performance.
Having now established themselves as an athletics powerhouse in Asia, India should look to build on these performances to conquer the world stage. With so many new and young medallists coming up at this Asiad, there’s absolutely no doubt about the depth of talent in this country. The athletes only need proper guidance, training and funds so that they can continue to bring laurels for India.