Manila, the PhilippinesAn unknown Myanmar woman, making her Asian Championships debut, was the toast of the Rizal Memorial Stadium here today, the concluding day of the 15th Asian Championships.
Yin Yin, who? This would have been the question anyone would have posed till the other day when Yin Yin Khine won the 400 metres here. It was achieved against a mediocre field that did not include either the Sri Lankan Damayanthi Darsha or the Indian K. M. Beenamol.
But today, when she clocked a career-best 2:01.96, the second best time ever in the Asian meet for the 800 metres, to take her second gold, everyone had to take note. Who is she? Where is she from? Who is her coach?
The questions came in a cascade. Yin Yin, in between bouts of retching and gasping, managed to answer some, through two of the Myanmar officials.
She had started running only in 1993, hails from Mandaley, upper Myanmar, has been self-trained till recently and had clocked her earlier PB of 2:04.7 in Yangoon in an international meet last February. The 26-year-old woman had never made the Myanmar team for any meet, junior or senior.
Yin Yin ran from the front today. She looked strong through the opening lap and stronger as she lengthened her stride on the final back-straight. Onto the home straight the Myanmarese looked like slackening a bit, even as Kazakh Tatyana Roslanova made a determined charge from the outside. But Yin Yin had the reserves to pull off the gold, her country's first since Khin Khin Htwe won the 1500m in New Delhi in 1989.
There were doubles aplenty on the final day. Uzbek Lyubov Perepelova completed the sprint double, adding the 200m and then Kuwaiti Fawzi Al-Shammari beat an Al-Bishi for the second time. This one was Hamed Al-Bishi, Hamdan Odha's brother. Hamdan, who was beaten by Al-Shammari, was there in this field as well, coming seventh.
A pair of National records at Amman, during the Arab Championships, a fortnight earlier, 20.41 and 44.93, had given him the boost after a personally forgettable World Championships, Al-Shammari said. There was a typical yell and the familiar rush towards officials and team-mates as Al-Shammari celebrated.
Perepelova's 23.11s was a modest effort in a depleted field. Sri Lankan Susanthika Jayasinghe, the sprint double owner on home turf last year, was not there. Damayanthi Darsha who qualified for the final, pulled out complaining about a strained quad muscle. Chinese Chen Lisha put up some fight, but it was not good enough to stop Perepelova. Guzel Khubbieva, another Uzbek took the bronze.
A championship record of 1:46.20 was the performance with which Adam Abdu Adam Ali avenged his Colombo Asian Champs and Busan Asian Games defeats of last year in the 800 metres. The 20-year-old Qatari timed his `kick' from 180 metres out, to beat Asian Games champion Rashid Mohammed and his better-rated team-mate Salem Amer Al-Badri.
Ali's timing erased one of the long-standing records in the championships, that of 1:47.37 set by Malaysian B. Rajkumar in 1985. He had messed it up in Colombo with a poor tactical race and a late surge on the straight, while he and the others were outclassed in Busan by Rashid and India's K. M. Binu.
Incidentally, Binu, who is here, could not compete, because of fever. The one man in form this year, Saudi Arabian Mohamed Al-Salhi was not entered.
Qatar had another one-two, this an expected one in the 5000 metres. The unexpected twist was provided by Abdulrahman Amri Abdelaziz by beating Saif Saaeed Shaheen after a furious dash down the straight. Shaheen returns from his first Asian meet without a gold.
“It doesn't actually matter. I have nothing to prove at this level,” said the man whose transfer to Qatar from Kenya and his name change from Stephen Cherono to Saif Shaheen had triggered quite a debate among Kenyan athletes during the Paris Worlds.
Truth to tell, Shaheen did not have the `kick' to match Abdelaziz's but he could well have sealed the race earlier had he cut himself loose from his team-mate.
”I didn't want to do that. Throughout the race, I kept encouraging him, asking him whether he was all right, following me. What mattered was two medals for Qatar,” Shaheen would tell later. He was beaten in the 1500m by Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi, the Asian Games champion, the other day. “I was tired after the Monaco finals,” Shaheen explained.
Another man who did well at Monaco, with the silver at 8.30m, Saudi Arabian Hussein Taher Al-Sabee uncorked an 8.23 jump in the fifth round after struggling to touch eight metres in the first three rounds of the Long Jump competition. He had 8.10, 8.23 and 8.19 efforts in the next three. The man who was tipped to challenge Al-Sabee, former Asian champion Abdulrahman Sultan Al-Nubi ended up fourth with 7.88m. He had touched 8.11m in the qualifying round to place himself as a serious contender for the gold.
His brother Faraj Mubarak Al-Nubi, however, duly won the 400 metres Hurdles gold, in 49.19 seconds. Without Haadi Sou'aan Al-Somialy of Saudi Arabia and Dai Tamesue of Japan, this was not a contest worth waiting for. Kazakh Yevgeniy Melshenko and Taipei's Chen Tien-Win took the minor medals.
Vitaly Smirnov of Uzbekistan made up for his 2002 Colombo disappointment by claiming the Decathlon gold with a tally of 8021 points. In the absence of Chinese Qi Haifeng and Kazakhstan's Dmitry Karprov, Smirnov was always the hot favourite for this crown and he did not let his followers down.
By an IAAF Correspondent
200m: 1. Fawzi Al-Shammari (Kuw) 20.70, 2. Hamed Al-Bishi (KSA) 20.73, 3. Yang Yazou (Chn) 20.82;
800m: 1. Abam Abdu Adam Ali (Qat) 1:46.20 (CR), 2. Salam Amer Albadri (Qat) 1:46.95, 3. Rashid Mohammed (Brn) 1:47.09; 5000m: 1. Abdulrahman Amri Abdelaziz (Qat) 13:58.89, 2. Saif Saeed Shaheen (Qat) 13:58.92, 3. Nobuyo Matsunaga (Jpn) 14:12.73;
400m hurdles: Sultan Faraj Mubarak Al-Nubi (Qat) 49.19, 2. Yvgeniy Melshenko (Kaz) 49.55, 3. Chen Tien-Wen (Tpe) 50.72;
High Jump: 1. Wang Zhouzhou (Chn) 2.23, 2. Bae Kyang-Ho (Kor) 2.19, 3. Loo Kum Zee (Mas) and Naoyuki Daigo (Jpn) 2.19;
Long Jump: 1. Hussein Taher Al-Sabee (KSA) 8.23, 2. Zhou Can (Chn) 8.11, 3. Shinichi Terano (Jpn) 8.04;
Shot Put: 1. Saad Bilal Mubarak (Qat) 19.41, 2. Shakti Singh (Ind) 19.04, 3. Khaled Habash Al-Suwaidi (Qat) 18.57;
Decathlon: 1. Vitaly Smirnov (Uzb) 8021 points, 2. Pavel Dubitskiy (Kaz) 7604, 3. Pavel Andreev (Uzb) 7487;
4x100m relay: 1.China 39.22, 2. Thailand 39.57, 3. Japan 39.59;
4x400m relay: 1. Sri Lanka 3:03.05, 2. Japan 3:03.59, 3. Qatar 3:04.32.
200m: Lyubov Perepelova (Uzb) 23.11, 2. Chen Lisha (Chn) 23.39, 3. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzb) 23.63;
800m: 1. Yin Yin Khine (Mya) 2:01.96, 2. Tatyana Roslanova (Kaz) 2:02.41, 3. Zamira Amirova (Uzb) 2:02.84;
400m hurdles: 1. Huang Xiaoxiao (Chn) 55.66 (CR), 2. Natlya Torshina (Kaz) 55.88, 3. Winatho Wasana (Tha) 56.40;
Javelin: 1. Ma Ning (Chn) 57.05, 2. Chang Jung-Yeon (Kor) 53.23, 3. Anne Maheshi De Silva (Sri) 50.18;
4x100m relay: 1. Thailand 44.25, 2. Japan 44.56, 3. China 44.97;
4x400m relay: 1. China 3:31.30, 2. Kazakhstan 3:32.82, 3. India 3:35.34;
20km walk: 1. Hao Mingming (Chn) 1:31:47.0 (CR), 2. Zou Ying (Chn) 1:32:07.0, 3. Yuan Yu Fang (Mas) 1:32:25.0.