Renjith Maheswary who had shot into the triple jumping limelight with 17.04 metres effort in an Asian Grand Prix meet last month so bettering a 36-year-old Indian record, lived up to his promise by winning the gold with a wind-aided 17.19 as the curtain came down on the 17th Asian Athletics Championships at the Amman International Stadium on Sunday (29).
China, which will host the next meet in Guangzhou in 2009, fielded an inexperienced team and still topped the medals tally with seven gold, four silver and four bronze medals.
India, helped by Maheswary's splendid performance along with two other last day gold medals by women’s 1500m runner Sinimole Joseph and the women's 4x400m relay team on the final day, took a surprising second place in the medals tally with five gold, five silver and five bronze. Saudi Arabia claimed the third slot with five gold and no other medals.
Maheswary 's only opposition on Sunday came from Korean Kim Duk-Hyun, who had won the bronze in the Doha Asian Games, ahead of the Indian. The top Chinese, Zhung Minwei and Gu Junjie, both over 17 metres this season, were not entered and China pulled-out its lone competitor in the event, Zhu Shujing just before the meeting began. To make it simpler for Maheswary, Kazakh Roman Valiyev, silver winner at last year's Asian Games, also pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Not that anything would have mattered to the 22-year-old Indian. He had been on a "high" since the Guwahati leg of the Asian Grand Prix, and yesterday with the wind behind the jumpers, he reeled off 16.47, 16.97, 16.94, 16.93, 17.19 (+2.5 wind) and 15.83. Not all the wind-readings were available but it was pertinent to note that Kim Duk-Hyun's last-round jump of 17.00 for the silver was with a legal wind-speed of 1.8m /s.
India's second entry in the event, Bibu Mathew had a wind-aided personal best of 16.64 metres for the bronze. Qatari Mohamadein Ibrahim, who has a personal best of 17.15, back in 2004, finished 12th and last with just 14.02.
Maheswary talked about having difficulty in breathing, a common complaint among the athletes not used to the altitude of the Jordanian Capital. "It was only after three rounds that I had my breathing close to normal," said the Indian.
5000m follows 10,000m formula
In a repeat of the men’s 10,000 metres, the Qataris outpaced men from Bahrain to make a gold-silver sweep in the 5000 metres. Felix Kibore and Abdullah Ahmad Hassan took over command on the final back straight and coasted through to a 14:07.12 and 12:08.66 finish, leaving Bahrain's Abeden Isa Ishaq, who had done a lot of front-running, to take the bronze.
Titles not times count for Paulose
The distance events were bound to return average timings, given the conditions here, with temperatures steadily rising during the past week.
Even the middle distance athletes felt the strain. And Indian Sinimole Paulose was no exception as she won the 1500 metres after holding herself back till 200 metres from the finish. From there she did not have a problem in getting past Bahrain's Sara Bekheet. The 4:25.67 for the gold was mediocre. Yet, Paulose felt happy that she had her first Asian title.
"This had to be a race to win, not for times," said the 24-year-old Indian who had finished fourth in the last championships in Incheon, but had won the bronze in the last Asian Games. Here she had also taken the silver in the 800 metres behind Vietnamese Truong Thanh Hang who ended up with the bronze on Sunday.
Japanese Tasuku Tananoka claimed the 110m Hurdles, against stiff challenge from Qatari Mohammed Essa Al-Thawadi, with Chinese Wu Youjia coming third. China had been winning this event the past three editions, two of them by world record holder Liu Xiang. Neither Liu Xiang nor a horde of other top-ranked Chinese athletes were entered here.
The gold that got away
China added just one gold, a silver and a bronze on the final day, the gold coming through javelin thrower Chen Qi ( 78.07). There could have been another gold for the asking had not Li Ling no-heighted at 3.80m in women's pole vault. With a 4.30 behind her this season, Li Ling could have been expected to walk away with the gold. In the event, in the three-woman field, Malaysian Rosalinda Samsu had the gold at 4.20 while Singapore had its lone medal, a silver, through Rachel Yang Bing Jie (3.50).
The Thais took both the men’s sprint relays, as they invariably do. Saudi Arabia beat Sri Lanka on the last leg to win the men's 4x400m relay gold while India, traditionally strong in the women's longer relay, confirmed their status, though Japanese Asami Tanno threatened to cause an upset with a spirited anchor against Chitra K. Soman, the individual gold winner.
By An IAAF Correspondent
5000m: 1. Felix K. Kibore (Qat) 14:07.12, 2. Abdullah Ahmad Hassan (Qat) 14:08.66, 3. Abedeen Isa Ishaq (Brn) 14:18.47.
110m Hurdles : 1. Tasuku Tanonaka (Jpn) 13.51, 2. Mohammed Essa Al-Thawadi (Qat) 13.55, 3. Wu Youjia (Chn) 13.68.
Triple Jump : 1. Renjith Maheswary (Ind) 17.19w, 2. Kim Duk-Hyun (Kor) 17.00, 3. Bibu Mathew (Ind) 16.64w.
Javelin Throw : 1. Chen Qi (Chn) 78.07, 2. Park Jae-Myong (Kor) 75.77, 3. Chung Sang-Jin (Kor) 70.95.
4x100m relay : 1. Thailand 39.34, 2. Qatar 39.64, 3. China 39.71, 4. India 39.84.
4x400m relay : 1. Saudi Arabia 3:05.96, 2. Sri Lanka 3:07.29, 3. India 3:07.94.
1500m : 1. Sinimole Paulose (Ind) 4:25.67, 2. Sara Bekheet (Brn) 4:26.21, 3. Truong Thanh Hang (Vie) 4:26.77.
Pole Vault : 1. Rosalinda Samsu (Mas) 4.20, 2. Rachel Yang Bing Jie (Sin) 3.50. (in a three-woman field, China's China's Li Ling no-heighted).
4x100m relay : 1. Thailand 44.31, 2. Japan 45.06, 3. Chinese Taipei 46.48.
4x400m relay : 1. India 3:33.39, 2. Japan 3:33.82, 3. Kazakhstan 3:50.81.