James Kwalia in Beijing (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kwalia and Aitova steal the limelight in Tehran - Asian Indoor Champs, Day 1

The Asian Indoor championships returned to its birthplace, Tehran, after six years.  The Iranian capital, which conducts the annual Fajr invitational indoor meet, had successfully organized the inaugural Asian indoors at Aftab-e-Enqelab Gymnasium in 2004.

Asia is the only other continent after Europe to stage the continental indoor championships. As many as 300 athletes from 27 nations, including China and Japan, are taking part in the three day meet which began on Wednesday (24).

Qatar’s James Kwalia, the World championship bronze medalist in the 5000m at Berlin, showed his readiness to take the men’s line-up in next month’s World Indoor Championships in Doha as he took the gold in a hard fought 3000m race from countryman Rashed Essa Ismail.  Kwalia, the Asian Indoor Games victor in Hanoi, won, 7:57.73 to 7:57.77, from Ismail and thus sent a warning to everyone who is aiming for a medal in Doha.  Ismail was a silver medalist in the 10,000m at the last Asian Games and is a specialist in road races.

Samuel Francis, the Asian record holder in the 100m, ascertained his supremacy once again as he conquered the men’s 60m with a 6.58 clocking.  Local star Reza Gasemi pipped Moubarak Al Harthi of Oman for the second place.  

Japan opened its account in the championships through long jumper Rikiya Saruyama.  The recent East Asian Games bronze medallist leaped to the top spot with his indoor best of 7.65m.  China’s Zhuang Haitao, the Asian Indoor Games silver medalist and a hot contender here, could not go beyond 7.58m and hence settled for silver.    

Aitova prepping for Doha podium?

In women’s events, High jumper Marina Aitova, the World and Olympic finalist from Kazakhstan, clinched the title with a noteworthy 1.93m effort.  Her teammate Anna Ustinova retained her silver medal position from Doha 2008 with a moderate 1.86m.

Aitova, fifth at Valencia two years ago, is aiming for a podium finish at this year’s global edition.

The Chinese women took the top two spots in 60m. Jiang Lan, the national junior record holder and fifth at last year’s Asian Indoor Games in Hanoi, overcame the challenge from compatriot Han Ling to win the event in 7.51.

Rajabi takes first host nation gold

The hosts Iran had something to cheer about as well when their best bet Leyla Rajabi, the reigning Asian Indoor Games champion, took gold in the Shot Put with a 17.32m heave.  Rajabi, originally hails from Belarus and formerly known as Tatsiana Ilyushchanka, has a personal best of 18.01m indoors (18.06m outdoors) from 2006.        

Two Chinese women, Asian junior champion Meng Qianqian who tossed the iron ball to 17.03m, and her training partner and World University Games bronze medallist Ma Qiao, filled out the medal slots. 

The women’s events were held separately in the morning behind closed doors as men, per Islamic custom in the host nation, are prohibited from watching the proceedings.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

Leading Results:

 1. Samuel Francis QAT 6.58, 2. Reza Gasemi IRI 6.67, 2. Moubarak Al Harthi OMN 6.68

 1. James Kwalia Okurui QAT 7:57.73,  2. Rashed Essa Ismail QAT 7:57.77,  3. Mohamad Khazaee IRI 8:26.33

Long Jump:
 1. Rikiya Saruyama JPN 7.65,  2. Zhuang Haitao CHN 7.58,  3. Md. Ibrar IND 7.56

 1. Jiang Lan CHN 7.51,  2. Han Ling CHN 7.55,  3. Olga Bludova KAZ 7.57

 1. Viktoria Poliudin KGZ  9:39.35, 2. Verner Oksana KAZ 9:43.99

High Jump:
 1. Marina Aitova KAZ 1.93,  2. Anna Ustinova KAZ 1.86,  3. Qiao Yanrui CHN 1.83

Shot Put:
 1. Leyla Rajabi IRN 17.32, 2. Meng Qianqian CHN 17.03,  3. Ma Qiao CHN 16.97