Incheon, KoreaPushing back the memories of a nightmarish debut at the World Championships in Helsinki, 18-year-old Majid Saeed Sultan put on an outstanding display of front running to clock a championship record of 1:44.27 to win the men’s 800 metres as the curtain came down on the 16th Asian Athletics Championships at the Munhak Stadium here today.
Top quality 800m
The Qatari youngster, unfortunate to be disqualified at Helsinki, drew the best out of the other two medallists as well, with his team-mate Abdulrahman Suleiman clocking a personal best 1:44.73 for the silver and Iranian Sadjad Moradi recording a National record of 1:44.74 for the bronze.
Sultan himself bettered the Qatari record apart from registering a new Asian junior record in what was easily the best ever two-lap event in the continental-level meets in Asia.
Saudi Arabian Mohammad Obaid Al-Salhi, despite bettering the previous championship record of 1:46.20 by clocking 1:45.78 could not get anything better than the fourth placing.
The world top 25 list in men’s 800 will now start to have a more Asian look than ever before. We will have to leave it to your imagination about what could have been the outcome in the 800 metres had the double gold winner from Helsinki, Rashid Ramzi, or one of his team-mates, Asian record holder Youssef Kamel or Belal Mansoor Ali been in the field today. Bahrain, though it entered four runners, eventually pulled out its team from the championships.
China tops the champs with 15 golds in total
The final day, for a change, did not belong to China though that country comfortably topped the medal standings with a 15-7-10 gold-silver-bronze tally. In fact, China managed just one gold on the last day when 16 finals were gone through.
There was a resurgent Saudi Arabia, which took the men’s 200 metres and the 400m Hurdles gold through Hamed Al-Bishi and Hadi Soua’an Al-Somaily. The Saudis even managed to bring off a surprise by ‘claiming’ the men’s 4x400m relay, pushing Japan and Sri Lanka behind, only to be told in the end that second runner Al-Somaily had cut in too early. The disqualification meant a bonus gold for Japan, while pre-race favourite Sri Lanka climbed from bronze to the second place. India, fourth originally, was given the bronze.
Two for Qatar
The day also saw Qatar asserting its distance superiority through its Kenyan ‘import’, James Chepkurui. Qatar also had the men’s shot put gold through Khaled Al-Suwaidi.
…and two more titles for India too
India had two gold medals, both as per forecasts, from long jumper Anju George and the women’s 4x400 metres relay team, while Sri Lanka opened its golden tally through Damayanthi Darsha who won the 200 metres and added a surprise one from high jumper Manjula Kumara Wijesekara who cleared 2.27 metres.
Japan had reasons to cheer
Japan’s Miho Sugimori added the 800 metres gold rather effortlessly to the 1500 metres she had won earlier. The ‘bonus’ gold from the men’s 4x400m relay meant that Japan would climb up to the second slot on the medal table behind China, displacing Qatar. It is after a long time that Japan had sent a strong team to these championships and though the eventual medal collection might not be in keeping with its standing, especially in the distance events, Japan had reasons to cheer.
Eventful relay fortunes and misfortunes
As it often happens on the final day, it proved an eventful one in every sense of the term. There was agony and ecstacy; agony for the Saudis as they were told that they would not be getting that relay gold they had won after a closely-fought contest with Japan; ecstacy for Japanese Shingo Suetsugu as he pulled his team through on the anchor for an improbable-looking 4x100m victory over Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
Home win…at last
And there was cause for great celebration for the home fans, too, as a Korean, woman javelin thrower Park Ho Hyun, won the hosts a gold at last. The locals had cheered everyone through the four days, understandably reserving their best for the home athletes, but had felt disappointed that a gold was not there in their country’s collection. Till Sunday that is.
The Saudis had to work very hard for their success. Hamed Al Bishi had to stretch himself fully at the finish to get the better of Japanese Tatsuro Yoshino in the 200 metres, 20.66 to 20.68. Al-Somaily, after hitting the final hurdle, seemed to have lost the 400m hurdles gold to Kazakh Yevgeniy Malshenko, but put in a desperate effort towards the finish to edge ahead, 49.16 to 49.18.
Dominant 5000m performance but slow time
There were no such desperate lunges and scrambling for the Qataris in the 5000 metres. James Chepkurui and Daham Najm Bashir decided that the slow pace and waiting game was over after about seven and a half laps and pulled ahead together, never to look back.
Chepkurui pulled further ahead of his team-mate with three laps left, but eventually he could only manage a 14:08.56 that by his standards or even by Asian standards was quite ordinary. Bashir’s silver came in 14:15.92, while Wu Wen-Chien of Taipei took the bronze after half a dozen runners went into a furious kick on the straight in search of the only medal they could aim for.
Singh nearly upstages favourite
Qatari Al-Suwaidi, his 20.54 metres this season accepted as an Asian record, had his reputation to protect not to speak of his country’s recent tradition in shot put. India, too, has a proud tradition in the event and Navpreet Singh all but managed to upstage the better-ranked Qatari. The Indian failed by five centimetres, 19.40 to 19.45, with Chinese Zhang Qi claiming the bronze with 19.02.
Narrow win for George with set on Monaco
Anju Bobby George, competing in the Asian meet for the first time, also won narrowly. She had a 6.65 in the fourth round while Filipino Marestella Torres responded with 6.63 in the fifth. Both fouled their last attempts.
George was happy that the gold and the mark would earn her sufficient points to be among the top seven in next week’s IAAF World Rankings that should give her a place in the World Athletics Finals in Monaco. She had slumped from seven to eight and to the ninth position in the Rankings, going into these championships.
“A gold is a gold, though I am not satisfied with the performance I had today,” said George. “There was no protection from the sun for us and I felt drained completely,” she added. It was a hot day and the sun shone throughout for the first time in four days. To make matters worse, the women’s long jump final had 18 jumpers in the fray.
Sri Lankan silences skeptics
Damayanthi Darsha silenced her critics with an easy victory in the women’s 200 metres. She clocked 23.21 and felt that with her performance she would have answered those who had suggested that she was over the hill. At 30, Darsha was looking forward to at least one more year of athletics activity but said that she would not be running the 400 anymore.
By an IAAF Correspondent in Korea
Results of Finals: 4 Sep
200m: 1. Hamed Al-Bishi (KSA) 20.66, 2. Tatsuro Yoshino (Jpn) 20.68, 3. Yang Yaozu (Chn) 20.85.
800m: Majid Saeed Sultan (Qat) 1:44.27 (CR), 2. Abdulrahman Suleiman (Qat) 1:44.73, 3. Sadjad Moradi (Iri) 1:44.74.
5000m: 1. James Kwalia Chepkurui (Qat) 14:08.56, 2. Daham Najm Bashir (Qat) 14:15.92, 3. Wu Wen-Chien (Tpe) 14:32.43.
400m Hurdles: 1. Haadi Soua’an Al-Somaily (KSA) 49.16, 2. Yevgeniy Melshenko (Kaz) 49.18, 3. Zhang Shibao (Chn) 49.65.
High Jump: 1. Manjula Kumara Wijesekara (Sri) 2.27, 2. Naoyuki Daigo (Jpn) 2.23, 3. Zhang Shufeng (Chn) 2.23.
Shot Put: 1. Khaled Al-Suwaidi (Qat) 19.45, 2. Navpreet Singh (Ind) 19.40, 3. Zhang Qi (Chn) 19.02.
Decathlon: 1. Pavel Andreev (Uzb) 7744, 2. Kim Kun Woo (Kor) 7694, 3. Hiromasa Tanaka (Jpn) 7351.
4x100m relay: 1. Japan 39.10, 2. Thailand 39.23, 3. Saudi Arabia 39.25.
4x400m relay: 1. Japan 3:03.51, 2. Sri Lanka 3:04.12, 3. India 3:07.45.
200m: 1. Damayanthi Darsha (Sri) 23.21, 2. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzb) 23.43, 3. Ni Xiaoli (Chn) 23.58.
800m: 1. Miho Sugimori (Jpn) 2:01.84, 2. S. Shanthi (Ind) 2:04.01, 3. Zamira Amirova (Uzb) 2:04.22.
400m Hurdles: 1. Huang Xiaoxiao (Chn) 55.63 (CR), 2. Norseela Mohammed Khalid (Mas) 56.39, 3. Makiko Yoshida (Jpn) 56.85.
Long Jump: 1. Anju Bobby George (Ind) 6.65m, 2. Maerstella Torres (Phi) 6.63, 3. Kumiko Ikeda (Jpn) 6.52.
Javelin: 1. Park Ho Hyun (Kor) 55.58, 2. Lee Young Sun (Kor) 55.29, 3. Anne Maheshi De Silva (Sri) 54.86.
4x100m relay: 1. Thailand 44.18, 2. China 44.24, 3. Japan 44.85.
4x400m relay: 1. India 3:30.93 (CR), 2. Kazakhstan 3:32.61, 3. Japan 3:33.54.