Mahboob Ali Hassan brought in all his experience to take the men’s 10,000m title on the opening day of the 19th Asian Athletics Championships at the Universiade Stadium on Thursday (7).
It was a distance double for Bahrain as Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel, a 21-year-old Bahraini of Ethiopian origin, outsmarted the Asian Games champion from India, Preeja Sreedharan, in the women’s 10,000m.
In the process of this Bahraini assault on the gold medals on a rainy day, the Japanese, widely expected to live up to their reputation at home as formidable distance runners in the continent, suffered yet again, managing just the bronze in the men’s event and nothing in the women’s.
It was a day when rains looked unrelenting. The weather upset the throwers and the jumpers and forced the postponement of the men’s Pole vVault event. Still, the athletes braved the conditions to manage some quite satisfactory results.
Hassan, a Kenyan by birth, winner of the 5000m in last year’s Asian Games where he also took the bronze in the 10,000m, pulled everything at his command to score a memorable victory in 28:35.49. He had also won the 10,000 in the Doha Asian Games in 2006.
He and teammate Bilsuma Shugi Gelasa, the surprise Asian Games winner in Guangzhou last year, ran in tandem, inducting a speedy lap here, slowing down there, taking turns at the lead, and stepping up the tempo towards the end to upset the rhythm of Japanese Akinobu Murasawa and Tsuyoshi Ugachi.
It did look at one stage Hassan might fade away. He often beckoned his teammate to take over, but found the reserves after 8000 metres to eventually prevent a Japanese break over the last two laps and then sprint home from around 200 metres out, glancing back to spot his countryman as he finished.
In a slower and less tactical race in the women’s 10,000m, Habtegebrel and teammate Kareema Jasim Saleh broke after 5000 metres never to look back, leaving the fight for the bronze among the Indians and the Japanese.
A 74-second lap at the half-way stage shook off the rest in a small field of seven after the runners had done 79 and 80-second laps until then. The pace was down to 80 and 78 seconds after that but with six laps to go the Bahrainis put in two laps of 77 second each.
That eventually settled all arguments. Sreedharan was content to aim for the bronze in a fight with Japanese Hitomi Nakamura and Kaoru Nagao, while the Asian Games silver winner, Kavita Raut, was lapped!
Habtegebrel, bronze winner in the Asian Games, easily outsprinted her colleague for a 32:47.80 finish, while the Japanese could not match the home straight rush of Sreedharan.
Hadadi triumphs again in the Discus Throw
One man who braved the morning rains, in which throwers were slipping in the circle, was Iranian Ehsan Hadadi. He expectedly claimed his fourth Asian title in a row, with a 62.27m effort. The US-based Indian, Vikas Gowda, took the silver with 61.58m whole Chinese Wu Jian threw 56.16m for the bronze.
Asian Games silver winner Mahmoud Samimi could manage only 56.22m for the fourth place.
Johny manages conditions best in women's Long Jump
Rain also hampered the women long jumpers. Indian Mayookha Johny won her first international title, reaching 6.56m on her second attempt. She was distraught that the conditions had robbed her of a possible chance to go for the qualification standard for World Championships and the Olympic Games (6.65m).
But when told she had already made the grade for Daegu since Asian champions were being given automatic qualification to the Worlds, Johny’s face lit up. She now has plans to go for the Olympic standard which she feels should be within her grasp sooner than later.
At both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games last year, Johny had failed to live up to her promise and today, though she was far from satisfied with her performance, the 22-year-old Indian was thrilled that she was the Asian champion, and, more importantly, she would be competing in the World Championships.
Chinese Lu Minjia, with a second-round jump of 6.52m and Japanese Saeko Okayama, with a last-round effort of 6.51m claimed the silver and bronze. The jumpers struggled to come to grips with the conditions, but Johny, who has a best of 6.64m, looked to have coped the best.
“I never aimed for a medal since there were others who had jumped better than me,” said Johny. “I was looking for the qualification standard.”
The Chinese domination of the women’s Hammer Throw ended on Thursday. Japanese Masumi Aya won her first-ever title in Asia, with a season best 67.19m. That was good enough to beat Liu Tingting of China (65.42m).
Asian record holder Zhang Wenxiu of China (75.65m) was not in the fray, but China was still expected to assert its dominance in the throwing events. China did live up to its rating in women’s javelin when Liu Chunhua won with 58.05m.
By an IAAF Correspondent
10,000m: 1. Mahboob Ali Hasan (Brn) 28:35.49, 2. Bilsuma Shugi Gelasa (Brn) 28:36.30, Akinobu Murasawa (Jpn) 28:40.63.
Discus: 1. Ehsan Hadadi (Iri) 62.27, 2. Vikas Gowda (Ind) 61.58, 3. Wu Jian (Chn) 56.61.
10,000m: 1. Shitaye Eshete Habtegebrel (Brn) 32:37.80, 2. Kareemma Jasim Saleh (Brn) 32:50.70, 3. Preeja Sreedharan (Ind) 33:15.55.
Long jump: 1. Mayookha Johny (Ind) 6.56, 2. Lu Minjia (Chn) 6.52, 3. Saeko Okayama (Jpn) 6.51.
Hammer: 1. Masumi Aya (Jpn) 67.19, 2. Liu Tingting (Chn) 65.42, 3. Yuka Murofushi (Jpn) 62.50.
Javelin: 1. Liu Chunhua (Chn) 58.05, 2. Wang Ping (Chn) 55.80, 3. Yuka Sato (Jpn) 54.16.