Amidst rains and an overall low-key fare, it was the women's side of the programme that commanded the spotlight as the Asian Grand Prix series commenced in Jiaxing, China, on Sunday (22).
Chinese Chen Jingwen (52.97 in 400m) and Sun Yawei (13.18 in 100m Hurdles) were joined by Kazakhstan’s Margarita Matsko (2:01.63 in 800m) at the top of the Asian season charts.
The Chinese expectedly dominated the show, winning five of nine events on the men's side, and six out of nine on the women’s.
With some of the leading Indian and Japanese 400m runners absent, the fight for the win was expected to be between Asian Games champion Olga Tereshkova of Kazakhstan and Chinese Chen Jingwen. In the event, the Kazakh faded on the straight, allowing Jingwen and her team-mate Marina Maslyonko to push forward. Eventually Tereshkova could manage only fourth place, behind another Chinese, Chen Yanmei.
Matsko, third in the Asian 800m rankings last year, made an impressive opening to her outdoor season by effortlessly winning against a modest field in what turned out to be a meet record, bettering her 2:02.83 clocked at Kunshan, China, in 2009. Indian Tintu Luka, late to start training because of a hamstring strain, and Bahrain’s Maryam Yusuf Jamal were the leading runners in Asia last season, but it was Matsko who took the gold in the Asian Games.
Uzbek Anna Sidorova, also opening her season, returned a personal best 2:02.38, also the second best Asian mark for the season, while following Matsko to the line.
Veteran Guzel Khubbieva of Uzbekistan, all of 35 years, showed she has not lost any of her explosiveness in the women’s sprint, clocking a season best 11.46 that happened to be the second best in the Asian charts for this year. Chinese Wei Yongli took second in 11.52.
The women’s Triple Jump provided an engrossing contest with the top two Chinese, Li Yanmei and Xie Limei crossing swords in the fight for the gold. The younger Yanemi prevailed, with 13.98m, over the former Asian Games champion Xie Limei, whose 13.93m was the third best mark this season in Asia. The contest also brought the best out of Indian Mayookha Johny, whose PB of 13.71m was, however, good for the fourth place only.
After clocking a 43.65 in the qualification round, Japan pulled out of the final of the women’s 4x100m relay. It was eventually won by China with 44.31.
The men’s relay title went to Korea at 39.04. Japan was a prominent absentee.
The athlete to catch attention in the men's 110m Hurdles was 21-year-old Chinese Jiang Fan, who clocked 13.49s for a PB that was 0.20s better than his previous best returned in 2009. Only Liu Xiang (13.07) has clocked better this season among the Asians.
The top-rated star in the men’s section was Iranian Sajad Moradi, the Asian Games champion in the 800m. In a six-man field with none of the other leading Asians in the fray, the 27-year-old Iranian could go around at jogging pace and win comfortably in 1:50.47. Indian Ghamanda Ram, making some sort of a serious comeback this season, timed 1:50.69 for second.
Nineteen-year-old Chinese Zhang Guowei had an impressive 2.24m clearance in High Jump, but the 2006 World junior champion, Huang Haiqiang disappointed by finishing fourth at 2.10m. Two other Chinese, Jin Qichao (2.20m) and Wang Chen (2.15m) took the second and third places.
Mohammad Samimi, younger brother of Abbas Samimi who for long dominated the Asian Grand Prix circuit in the Discus Throw, won the title with an effort of 62.78m. His younger brother, Mahmoud Samimi took the bronze behind Chinese Wu Jian.
Chinese Chen Qiang won the men’s 100m dash in 10.38. Without the Japanese and the West Asians the event lacked the glamour that is normally associated with it.
The next two legs will also be held in China, at Kunshan (May 26) and Wujiang (May 29).
By An IAAF Correspondent
100m: 1. Chen Qiang (Chn)10.38, 2. Lai Chun Ho (HKG) 10.41, 3. Liang Jiahong (Chn) 10.42
400m: 1. Prasanna Amarasekara (Sri) 46.95, 2. Chen Jianxin (Chn) 47.25, 3. Sajad Hashemiahan (Iri) 47.27
800m: 1. Sajad Moradi (Iri) 1:50.47, 2. Ghamanda Ram (Ind) 1:50.69, 3. Yang Xiaofei (Chn) 1:50.84
110m hurdles: 1. Jiang Fan (Chn) 13.49, 2. Rohollah Asgariagandm (Iri)13.73, 3. Huang Hao (Chn) 13.94
High jump: 1. Zhang Guowei (Chn) 2.24m, 2. Jin Qichao (Chn) 2.20, 3. Wang Chen (Chn) 2.15
Long jump: 1. Zhang Xiaoyi (Chn) 7.89, 2. Yun Zhiming (Chn) 7.86, 3. Jiang Zhaodan (Chn) 7.84
Triple jump: 1. Dong Bin (Chn) 16.50, 2. Yevgeniy Ektov (Kaz) 16.30, 3. Li Yanxi (Chn) 16.29
Discus: 1. Mohammad Samimi (Iri) 62.78, 2. Wu Jian (Chn) 62.49, 3. Mahmoud Samimi (Iri) 60.36
4x100m relay: 1. Korea 39.04, 2. China 39.16, 3. Hong Kong 32.94.
100m: 1. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzb) 11.46, 2. Wei Yongli (Chn) 11.52, 3. Tao Yujia (Chn) 11.57
400m: 1. Chen Jingwen (Chn) 52.97, 2. Marina Maslyonko (Kaz) 53.39, 3. Chen Yanmei (Chn) 53.55
800m: 1. Margarita Matsko (Kaz) 2:01.63, 2. Anna Sidorova (Uzb) 2:02.38, 3. Li Yong (Chn) 2:08.76
100m hurdles: 1. Sun Yawei (Chn) 13.18, 2. Natlya Ivoninskaya (Kaz) 13.32, 3. Anastasiya Supronova (Kaz) 13.54
High jump: 1. Svetlana Radzivil (Uzb) 1.88, 2. Anna Ustinova (Kaz) 1.84, 3. Wanida Boonwan (Tha) 1.80
Triple jump: 1. Li Yanmei (Chn) 13.98, 2. Xie Limei (Chn) 13.93, 3. Aleksandra Kotlyarova (Uzb) 13.80
Discus: 1. Yang Fei (Chn) 58.01, 2. Lin Xiaojing (Chn) 51.52, 3. Seema Antil (Ind) 49.77; Javelin: 1. Xue Juan (Chn) 56.75, 2. Wang Ping (Chn) 55.23, 3. Gim Ae Gyeong (Kor) 53.92
4x100m relay: 1. China 44.31, 2. Hong Kong 46.19; Thailand DNF.