On a rain-soaked Sunday (7), Betlhem Desalegn of the UAE rewrote the championship record in the women’s 5000m en route to a golden double to highlight the final day of the 20th Asian Athletics Championships in Pune, India.
The 21-year-old Desalegn, originally from Ethiopia, prevented a distance double for Bahrain’s 10,000m winner Shitaye Eshete. Desalgen, who has claimed the 1500m gold two days ago, won the 5000m in a championship record of 15:12.84.
Tejitu Daba’s mark of 15:22.48, set in 2011, became history as Desalegn put in a strong show in an event not too familiar to her. Eshete, Daba and Desalegn played out a fascinating game, with the lead changing hands several times. It seemed the two Bahraini women would outwit Desalegn, but she proved too strong at the finish.
Taking the lead with about 600m left, Desalegn cruised home, leaving Eshete (15:22.17) in silver position. In heavy conditions, Daba faded away to finish third in 15:38.63.
“I am not used to running in rainy conditions,” said Desalgen. “It was very tough but I feel great as I have two gold medals now.”
Saudi Arabia’s men’s 4x400m relay team set the other championship record of the day. Anchored by the 400m gold medallist Youssef Al-Masrahi, the Saudi team clocked 3:02.53 to erase the previous record of 3:02.61 set by Japan in 1998.
On the final day, China won four more gold medals to take their final total to 16 gold, six silver and five bronze. Despite keeping many of their top performers at home, the Chinese team was a cut above the rest, with the second-placed Bahrain ending with a haul of 5-7-3.
For the third straight time, Japan won both the 400m Hurdles events. Yasuhiro Fueki timed 49.86 to take the men’s gold from China’s Cheng Wen (50.07). India’s Satinder Singh warded off a late threat from Japan’s Yuta Imazeki to win the bronze in 50.35.
Satomi Kubokura snatched the women’s title in 56.82 for her fourth straight gold medal in her sixth Asian Championships. The two successes gave respectability to Japan’s tally, as they ended third with four gold, six silver and ten bronze medals.
The men’s High Jump turned out to be a prolonged affair with six men clearing 2.21m and none succeeding in going further in difficult conditions. China’s Bi Xioliang, Irain’s Keyvan Ghanbarzadeh and India’s Jithin Thomas were tied in first place with the same number of failures, forcing a jump-off.
As the bar was brought lower, Xioliang cleared 2.18m for the gold while Ghanbarzadeh and Thomas both failed, leaving them sharing the silver medal. Qatar’s Asian record-holder Mutaz Essa Barshim skipped the event due to a back injury.
Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla won Qatar’s only gold medal, leading from start to finish in the men’s 800m. It was a confident run by Balla, who powered through the two laps in 1:46.92. Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Laden Mohammed tried to offer a challenge but could not match Balla’s pace and settled for the silver in 1:47.01. Bilal Mansour Ali took the bronze for Bahrain in 1:48.56.
“I could have run faster but I was bit tired having run the heats and finals of the 400m,” said the 24-year-old Balla, who was fourth in the 400m. “I will focus on preparing for the World Championships now.”
Yusuf Saad Kamel, Bahrain’s 2009 World 1500m champion, was sixth while Iran’s Asian Games champion Sajjad Moradi, hampered by a right hamstring strain, hobbled home eighth.
China’s Wang Chunyu out-sprinted Bahrain’s Genzeb Shumi Regasa (2:04.16) and India’s Tintu Luka (2:04.48) for the women’s 800m gold. The 18-year-old Chunyu, who had run 2:02.81 at the Shanghai Diamond League, improved her season’s best to 2:02.47.
Bahrain’s Dejene Regassa Mootuma retained his gold in the men’s 5000m. His compatriot Alemu Bekele, going for a double after his win in the 10,000m on the opening night, seemed the stronger of the two as they attempted to ward off the challenge from Saudi Arabia’s Imad Hamed Noor.
Mootuma even dropped back to third and seemed to be fading away, but he found a second wind to catch up with the leaders. With a little over a lap left, he overtook Bekele before surging to the finish in 13:53.25, running zig-zag on the track and waving to the fans. Bekele’s silver came in 13:57.23 and Noor’s bronze in 14:05.88.
For the home fans who thronged the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in large numbers, the best part of the programme came near the end. The Indian women’s 4x400m relay team, comprising Nirmala Sheoran, Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and Machettira Raju Poovamma, won the gold medal in 3:32.26, earning them a qualification spot for the World Championships. India had last won the event in 2007.
Viktoriya Zyabkina won Kazakhstan’s first-ever gold in the women’s 200m in a race that saw the defending champion Chisato Fukushima of Japan slipping to fourth place. Zyabkina timed 23.62 to rebuff the challenge from India’s Asha Roy who claimed a surprise silver in 23.71. Dutee Chand, 17, sprang another surprise by emerging ahead of Fukushima by one-thousandth of a second. Both were credited with a time of 23.82.
Xie Zhenye, another Chinese teenager, remained strong at the finish to seal the men’s 200m gold. The 19-year-old clocked 20.87 (+0.7) while Saudi Arabia’s Fahad Mohammed Al-Subaie (20.92) edged out Japan’s Kei Takase (20.92) for the silver, also by one-thousandth of a second.
China’s Cao Shuo dashed Indian hopes in the men’s Triple Jump to win the gold by the narrowest of margins. Shuo, the 2010 Asian Junior Champion and the Asian Games bronze medallist, delivered his season’s best of 16.77m in the fourth round. Indian Renjith Maheswary, the 2007 champion, almost matched it with a 16.76m in the fifth round but couldn’t go any further. Arpinder Singh fetched another bronze for India with a 16.58m leap, relegating Kazakhstan’s 2009 champion Roman Valiyev (16.55m) to fourth. Valiyev had headed the Asian charts this season with a 17.10m effort.
A correspondent for the IAAF