Chandrika Subashini of Sri Lanka celebrates winning a 200/400 double at the South Asian Games (Local Organisers) © Copyright
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South Asian Games – India dominates, but Pakistan’s Naseem Hameed steals the show

Dhaka, BangladeshThe 11th South Asian Games witnessed only 23 events (15 for men, 8 for women) but quite a few athletes put a memorable show in the four-day athletic competitions which concluded at Dhaka on Tuesday (9 Feb).

Despite having fielded juniors and second-line athletes, Indian athletes ruled the proceedings at Bangabandhu National Stadium. However they received stiff competition in the form of athletes from Sri Lanka and Pakistan.  

What stunned everyone was the impressive show by Pakistan’s Naseem Hameed as she raised from nowhere to fastest woman of the Games’ putting aside the much fancied Sri Lankan sprinters Priyadarshani and Dias to the minor places.  Naseem (23), who hails from Rawalpindi, was sixth in the previous edition of the Games held at Colombo in 2006.  After a perfect start, the Pakistani army athlete made a gallant effort to clock 11.81 to win the women’s 100m.  Her time equaled the national mark held by Sadaf Siddiqui. 

“It is a great moment for me to have brought glory to the country in my event after the poor showing by our national cricket team and especially since our athletics standards have been poor of late. I hope my performance will inspire young athletes to become professionals,” she said after the race.

Naseem was the third woman from her country to win the athletics gold at South Asian Games after long jumper Shabana Akhtar (1993) and high jumper Rehana Kausar (1999).

Pakistan in fact started well with its discus thrower Basharat Ali who successfully defended his title on the opening day followed by the golden glow in the men’s 110m Hurdles and Triple jump which were won by Mohsin Ali and Zafar Iqbal respectively.

Chandrika leads Lankan success

As usual women athletes from Sri Lanka, the tear-drop shaped island nation, were cynosure of all eyes at Dhaka as they challenged their mighty neighbours with vigour. 

Chandrika Subashini (22) took a double by winning the 200 and 400m for women.
Her teammate Priyangika Madumanthi sailed comfortably in the women’s high jump and avenged her defeat to India’s Sahana Kumari in the South Asian championships at Kochi, two years ago.            
Shehan Ambepitiya, the world junior finalist at Bydgoszcz two years ago who won a sprint double in the Commonwealth Youth Games at Pune, had lost the 200m to India’s Abdul Najeeb Qureshi on the opening day.  However he avenged his defeat by taking the 100m gold thereafter with a time of 10.46, his second fastest time ever.

Indians top again

Indian athletes once again occupied the top spot in the region’s athletics with a tally of 10 gold, 11 silver and 8 bronze medals.    

Gayathry Govindaraj, one of the medal hopes for this year’s Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, triumphed in the women’s 100m Hurdles. Sumita Rani, the upcoming Bangladesh hurdler lost the prime spot by just 1/100th of a second.

Other notable winners for the country include Bibin Mathew in the 400m and T. Balamurugan in the 400m Hurdles besides the 4x400m relay squads.

Quarter-miler Bibin Mathew, fourth at last year’s Asian championships in Guangzhou, pushed the fancied Prasanna Sampath Amarasekara to win the 400m, an event which was the islanders’ belt for a long time.  

Bhandari wins marathon amidst controversy

Nepal’s Rajendra Bahadur Bhandari, the double gold medallist in 5000m and 3000m Steeplechase at Colombo-2006, had been stripped off his medals following a positive test result. Having been reinstated recently Bhandari took part his first international event at Dhaka and won the marathon race, the last event of the Games on Tuesday in front of Ajit Bhandar of Sri Lanka and Ram Singh of India. However the course was found to be short by over 5km.  The Sri Lankan team lodged a protest, but the athletes were awarded medals as per their order of finish.   

The next edition of the South Asian Games will be held in India in 2012.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF

Top Results:

100m (8):
1. Shehan Ambepitiya (Sri) 10.46, 2. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi (Ind) 10.56, 3.  Liaqat Ali (Pak) 10.63;  
200m (6):
1. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi (Ind) 21.16, 2. Shehan  Ambepitiya (Sri) 21.19, 3. Liaqat Ali (Pak) 21.27; 
400m (7):
1. Bibin Mathew (Ind) 47.25, 2. Prasanna S. Amarasekara (Sri) 47.36, 3. Shake Mortaja (Ind) 47.53; 
1500m (6):
1. Chaminda Wijekoon (Sri) 4:10.01, 2. Sunil Kumar (Ind) 4:10.57, 3. P.H. Chamal (Sri) 4:10.97;
5000m (8):
1. Sunil Kumar (Ind) 14:23.83, 2. Mohammad Yunus (Ind) 14:24.22, 3. Chaminda Wijekoon (Sri) 14:47.68;  
110m Hurdles (7):
1. Mohsin Ali (Pak) 14.56, 2. Sandeep Parmar (Ind) 14.76, 3. P. Muthuswamy (Ind) 14.88; 
400m hurdles (6):
1. T. Balamurugan (Ind) 52.24, 2. Nawaz Haq (Pak) 52.52, 3. Avin A. Thomas (Ind) 52.52;
High Jump (8):
1. Harishankar Roy (Ind) 2.16, 2. Nikhil Chittarasu (Ind) 2.13, 3. Nalin Priyantha (Sri) 2.13; 
Long Jump (6):
1. Mohammad Ibrar (Ind) 7.44, 2. Nayana Dharmaratne (Sri) 7.25, 3. Ali Amin (Ban) 7.19;
Triple Jump (7):
1. Zafar Iqbal (Pak) 16.05, 2. Saurabh Singh (Ind) 15.27, 3. Nishan Kumara (Sri) 15.19; 
Discus Throw (6):
1. Basharat Ali (Pak) 52.43, 2. Simranjeet Singh (Ind) 49.18, 3. Azharul Islam (Ban) 44.98;
Javelin Throw (7):
1. Kashinath Naik (Ind) 74.27, 2. Muhammad Imran (Pak) 73.38, 3. Samarjeet Singh (Ind) 71.65; 
4x100m Relay (7):
1. Sri Lanka (J.I. Fernando, S. Ambepitiya, A. Hasaranga, S. Weerasuriya) 40.02, 2. India (M. Qureshi, Arunjith, Naseema Manzile and Ritesh Anand) 40.18, 3. Maldives 41.39;
4x400m Relay (8):
1.India (Bibin Mathew, Binu K.M., Bineesh V.B. and Shake Mortaza) 3:08.62, 2. Sri Lanka 3:08.94, 3. Pakistan 3:16.70;
Marathon (9):
1.Rajendra Bahadur Bhandari (Nep),  2. Ajith Bandara Adikari (Sri), 3. Ram Singh (Ind)
[No time recorded as the course was found short by several km]

100m (8):
1. Naseem Hameed (Pak) 11.81, 2. Pramila Priyadarshani (Sri) 11.93, 3. Achala Shalika Dias (Sri) 11.93; 
200m (6):
1. Chandrika Subashini (Sri) 24.49, 2. Pramila Priyadarshini (Sri) 24.63, 3. Jauna Murmu (Ind) 24.87;
400m (7):
1. Chandrika Subasini (Sri) 54.27, 2. Priyanka Pawar (Ind) 54.98, 3. A.C. Ashwini (Ind) 55.51; 
100m Hurdles (7):
1. G. Gayathry (Ind) 13.98, 2. Sumita Rani (Ban) 13.99,  3. Jasmin Akhter (Ban) 14.05; 
High Jump (7):
1. Priyangika Madumanthi (Sri) 1.81, 2. Sahana Kumari (Ind) 1.79, 3. Dulangalee Kumari (Sri) 1.72; 
Long Jump (8):
1. Chamali Dilrukshi (Sri) 6.20, 2. Reshmi Bose (Ind) 6.09, 3. M.A. Prajusha (Ind) 5.96;  
4x100m Relay (7):
1. Sri Lanka (Priyadarshini, A. Dias, S. Buddika, P. Priyadarshini) 46.33, 2. Bangladesh 46.80,  3. Pakistan 47.16;
4x400m Relay (8):
1. India (Jauna Murmu, Ashwini A.C., Tiana Mary and Priyanka Pawar) 3:38.62, 2. Sri Lanka 3:44.81, 3. Bangladesh 3:52.29;
Medal Tally:
India 10-11-8,  Sri Lanka 8-8-6,  Pakistan 4-2-4,  Nepal 1-0-0,  Bangladesh 0-2-4,  Maldives 0-0-1.