Liu Xiang wins Asian Championships in Colombo (Chua Chong Jin) © Copyright
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Liu Xiang scores a runaway victory and Al-Shammari wins a 400m thriller - Asian Games, Athletics Day Three

BusanAn emphatic victory for China’s junior sprint hurdling sensation Liu Xiang, and a long awaited tussle between Asia’s greatest one lap sprinters were the two highlights on the third day of the Athletics competition at the Asian Games.

China’s Liu Xiang scored a runaway victory in the 110 metres Hurdles, clocking a Games record of 13.27, bettering Li Tong’s 1994 mark of 13.30. The Chinese who is still a junior this season clocked an Asian senior and World junior record of 13.12 in Lausanne in July, and also confidently took the Asian Championships gold in Colombo.

Today he exuded confidence and was in a different league as he finished almost five metres ahead of second-placed Satoru Tanigawa of Japan, who clocked 13.83. Only on the eighth hurdle did Liu Xiang fumble a little, clipping it. Otherwise, he was as smooth as anyone could have hoped for.

The much-touted clash of Asia's top quarter-milers produced a fare befitting the occasion. Fawzi Al-Shammari of Kuwait edged Saudi Arabia’s Hamdan O. Al-Bishi on the line, 44.93 to 44.95 to win the 400 metres gold. The same one-two result as at the Asian Championships in August.

Two days had gone by and one had started wondering why a really intense and gripping contest had not yet materialized in these Games. Today’s 400 metres final was the answer. It was a inspiring contest all the way to the wire.

For once, Al-Shammari looked the likely loser most of the way but the 23-year-old Kuwaiti, who has been in such splendid form this season, was not prepared to give up before throwing everything he had into the contest. Through the last 10 metres, agonising inch after agonising inch, he made up the gap with Al-Bishi, finally gaining the upper hand with his last two strides.

Al-Shammari equalled his best for the season and also the Games record, which had stood in the name of Ibrahim Ismail of Qatar since 1994. Al-Bishi clocked his best for the season. Since the glorious days of Ibrahim Ismail, Asia has not seen such a dominant quarter-miler as Al-Shammari.

With the defending 400m champion, Sugath Tillakeratne going out in the semifinals, it was left to his Sri Lankan team-mate Rohan Pradeep Kumara to provide the challenge to the top two runners in Asia. The Sri Lankan could not keep up the pace in the final straight, but he took the bronze in 45.67 seconds.

Another keen contest could have been expected in the 3000m Steeplechase, but Khamis Seif Abdullah had no one to challenge him. The Asian record holder, Saad Shaddad Al-Asmari of Saudi Arabia had pulled out due to an injury suffered a fortnight earlier, and Abdullah was able to take things easy. Still, the Qatari clocked a Games record of 8:30.52, bettering the 8:31.73 that Sun Ripeng of China set in 1994.

In one of the most memorable duels for a silver medal, another Qatari, Ali Abubaker clinched the photo-finish verdict against Japanese Yoshitaka Iwamizu. Both were credited with 8:31.75.

The steeplechase finish was also memorable for the manner in Abdullah, while crossing the line for gold, began to wildly gesticulate his arms in an effort to urge his Qatari team-mate home for silver.

In a complete reversal of form and forecasts, Bahrain’s Mohammed Rachid Ramzi claimed the 800 metres gold against two better-rated Qataris, World junior championship silver medallist, Salem Amer Al Badri and Ali Adam Abu Adam.

In Colombo at the Asian Championships in August, where Al Badri took the silver behind Kazakh Mikhail Kolaganov, the Qataris had felt that their man had only missed the gold due to his tactical mistake of kicking too late.

In this race, with Indian K. M. Binu, the 1999 Asian junior bronze winner, kicking with more than 200 metres to go to the finish, the rest of the field was left with very limited options. Only Ramzi was able to keep the challenge alive and eventually gain over Binu, as the runners came onto the home straight.

From then on, Ramzi and Binu just kept going with the others struggling to sort out their own battle for the bronze that went to Chinese Li Huiquan, only the second medal for China at this distance behind the silver won by Mu Weiguo in 1994.

For Binu, younger brother of women’s 800m gold winner K. M. Beenamol, this was the first medal at the Asian level in senior company.

Salem Mouled Al-Ahmadi of Saudi Arabia won the Triple Jump, with a 16.60m. He trailed Chinese Lao Jianfeng up to the fifth round, when he came up with his winning jump, just three centimeters ahead of the Chinese who fouled two of his last three attempts.

China won both the gold medals decided in the women’s programme on this third day.

Shuying Gao , competing alone after 4.15m, established a Games record of 4.35 metres while winning the Pole Vault gold. The Asian record holder went up to 4.45 before failing. Japanese Maumi Ono also bettered the previous Games record of 4.00m while clearing 4.10 metres. Ono had set a National record of 4.20 this season, while Gao Shuying holds the Asian record of 4.52 metres.

China also won the women’s Shot Put gold, with Li Meiju, the favourite, claiming it with 18.62, her second putt. Korean Lee Myung Sun, provided the surprise with a season's best 18.50, that pushed the Asian champion, Thai Juthaporn Krasaeyan (17.53) down to the third place and China's Song Feina  (17.03) to the fourth.

Susanthika Jayasinghe kept herself on course for her widely-expected sprint double by qualifying for the 200 metres final. She came second, however, to Kazakhstan’s Vikoriya Kvyreva, 23.58 to 23.59, in one of the semifinals. Indian Saraswati Saha, who has a 22.82 this season won the other heat, in 23.51.

By an IAAF Correspondent

Selected Results -
400m: 1. Fawzi Al-Shammari (Kuw) 44.93, 2. Hamdan O. Al-Bishi (KSA) 44.95, 3. Rohan Pradeep Kumara (Sri) 45.67.

800m: 1. Mohammed Rachid Ramzi (Brn) 1:47.12, 2. K. M. Binu (Ind) 1:47.57, 3. Li Huiquan (Chn) 1:47.77.

3000m Steeplechase: 1. Khamis Seif Abdullah (Qat) 8:30.52, 2. Ali Kamal Abubaker (Qat) 8:31.75, 3. Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Jpn) 8:31.75.

110m Hurdles: 1. Liu Xiang (Chn) 13.27, 2. Satoru Tanigawa (Jpn) 13.83, 3. Park Tae-Kyong (Kor) 13.89.

Triple Jump: 1. Salem Mouled Al-Ahmadi (KSA) 16.60, 2. Lao Jianfeng (Chn) 16.57, 3. Takashi Komatsu (Jpn) 16.34.

Pole Vault: 1. Shuying Gao (Chn) 4.35, 2. Masumi Ono (Jpn) 4.10, 3. Qin Xia (Chn) 4.00.

Shot Put:1. Li Meiju (Chn) 18.62, 2. Lee Myung Sun (Kor) 18.50, 3. Juthaporn Krasaeyan (Tha) 17.53.