Three Asian Games champions were beaten, and in the heats of the men's 100m a championship record was set by a little-known Qatari as the 17th Asian Athletics Championships started at the Amman International Stadium yesterday (25).
Medals were decided in six events on the first day.
Firth round secures gold for Kuwait
Kuwaiti Ali Mohamed Al-Zankawi, who must have hoped to bag the Asian Games Hammer Throw gold last year in the absence of Japanese Koji Murofushi, edged the champion at Doha, Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikstan, by just one centimetre in a contest marred by fouls.
The Hammer Throw competitions in both sections, were incidentally held at the warm-up ground, some distance away from the stadium, since the authorities did not want the green football turf to be spoilt.
Nazarov opened with 75.70 while Zankawi had two fouls managing 69.30 to go through to the final three rounds. It was on his fifth throw that the 23-year-old Kuwaiti, son of three-time Asian Shot Put champion Mohamed Al-Zankawi (Sr), managed to nose ahead Nazarov.
High Jump surprise
Lee Hup Wei, a 20-year-old Malaysian, whose eighth place at Incheon and ninth place at the Doha Asian Games could not have projected him as a serious contender to challenge Lebanese Jean-Claude Rabbath in High Jump, surprised all winning with 2.24 metres, a national record. Rabbath, champion in Doha, settled for the silver in an absorbing contest at 2.21, the same as third-placed Satoru Kubota of Japan.
Saudi brings about Bashir’s 1500m demise
The third Asiad champion to be conquered was Qatari Dahame Najem Bashir in the 1500 metres. Mohammed Othman Shaween of Saudi Arabia, who had finished sixth when Bashir won in Doha, was unmatched over the last 200 metres in a slow race.
"I was confident of my finishing speed," said Shaween, a 3:38 runner who had not been in the same class as Bashir or Ali Abubaker Kamal who finished third today, beaten over the last five metres by Iranian Sajjad Moradi.
Shaween, coached by former World Championship medal winning steeplechaser Saad Shaddad Al-Asmari, felt that he could have run faster had the wind not pushed him behind from the 300-metre mark to the finish.
Bashir who with Kamal did the front-running, gave up when the pace hotted-up on the back-straight and finished 12th in 4:06.72.
Championship record goes in the dash
The championship record in the men's 100 metres heats came as a surprise. Twnety-year-old Qatari Samuel A. Francis is the first of the sprint "imports" from Africa to the Middle East. It is his first big meet for his new nation for the former Nigerian and he surprised many by dashing to a 10.18 finish.
The wind reading showed 0.0 for all sprint heats in both sections. So, obviously, either there was a malfunction with the wind gauge or else the readings were not being posted** see note below. Even allowing for some wind assistance, Francis's 10.18 was startling. Asian championships rarely provide such timings right at the heats stage.
The record that was bettered belonged to Qatari Talal Mansoor, who once ruled the Asian sprints. He had timed 10.22s while winning his third Asian title in Manila in 1993.
From now on, Francis will be the man to watch, though Asian Games champion Yahya Ibrahim Habeeb and defending champion Yahya Al-Kahes, both from Saudi Arabia, were also through to the semi-finals.
China and Bahrain take titles
China, even while being without its top-ranked athletes, can be expected to win gold medals without a fuss. Today was no exception as first Jiang Qiuyan, in the women's 20km Race Walk, and then Liao Xioyan, in the women's Hammer Throw, came up with gold-winning performances.
Kareema Saleh Jasim of Bahrain took the women's 10,000 metres gold. In a three-woman field, Jasim, silver winner at the Asian Games last year, was odds-on-favourite and she showed her superiority while leaving Indian Preeja Sreedharan well behind.
The altitude and the heat meant that the timings would be ordinary. Jasim clocked 34:26.39 while Sreedharan's silver came in 36:04.54. North Korean Kim Mi Gyong, lapped by her opponents, made sure that she had the bronze no matter that it came in 38:29.90. Chinese Bai Xue, holder of the distance double at the last championships, pulled out, leaving the championships with increasingly few stars to speak of.
Also pulling out were Saudi Arabian quarter-miler Hamdhan Odha Al-Bishi and Bahrain's woman sprinter Rakia Al-Ghasara who was expected to challenge Susanthika Jayasinghe.
Jayasinghe, in the meantime, led the qualifiers in the women's 100 metres heats into the final with a 11.35s effort.
NOTE. The start of the championships, the venue of which had been moved at the last minute to Jordan due to the unrest in Lebanon the original host country, was rather chaotic, with problems with results and communications.
By an IAAF Correspondent
1500m: 1. Mohammed Othman Shaween (KSA) 3:46.85, 2. Sajjad Moradi (Iri) 3:47.01, 2. Abubaker Ali Kamal (Qat) 3:47.22.
High Jump: 1. Lee Hup Wei (Mas) 2.24, 2. Jean-Claude Rabbath (Lib) 2.21, 3. Satoru Kubota (Jpn) 2.21.
Hammer Throw: 1. Ali Mohamed Al-Zankawi (Kuw) 75.71, 2. Dilshod Nazarov (Tjk) 75.70, 3. Hiroaki Doi (Jpn) 70.74.
10,000m: 1. Kareema Saleh Jasim (Brn) 34:26.39, 2. Preeja Sreedharan (Ind) 36:04.54, 3. Kim Mi Gyong (PRK) 38:29.90.
Hammer Throw: 1. Liao Xiaoyan (Chn) 60.58, 2. Kang Na-Ru (Kor) 57.38, 3. Huang Chie-Feng (Tpe) 55.37.
20km Race Walk: 1. Jiang Qiuyan (Chn) 1:36:15.9, 2. Bai Yanmin (Chn) 1:38:09.6, 3. Svetlana Tolostaya (Kaz) 1:41:53.0.