Report14 Jul 2023

Hata's big leap helps Japan to lead proceedings at Asian Championships


Japan's long jump winner Sumire Hata in action at the Asian Athletics Championships (© Vinu Mohanan)

Japan’s Sumire Hata was among the athletes to impress during the first few days of the Asian Athletics Championships, leaping a long jump championship record of 6.97m at the event in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday (14).

Athletes from Japan have clinched 10 of the 25 titles decided so far at the Supachalasai National Stadium, at a competition that continues until Sunday.

India’s 19-year-old Shaili Singh was leading the women’s long jump contest with her first round 6.54m until Hata surpassed that by 20cm in the fourth round. Singh, who leapt 6.76m in Bengaluru in April, tried to respond to the mark by Hata, who before arriving in Bangkok had a PB of 6.75m. But the conditions did not favour Singh, while Hata thundered down the runway and jumped 6.97m on her final attempt to improve the Japanese record as well as the 25-year-old championship record set by Guan Yingnan of China.

Singh, the silver medallist from the 2021 World U20 Championships in Nairobi, settled for silver, while Zhong Jiawei of China claimed bronze with 6.46m.

Asian champion Li Ling won the women’s pole vault with her clearance of 4.66m, equalling her own meeting record. She then attempted to improve her own area record of 4.72m but retired after two unsuccessful attempts at 4.73m.

Singapore’s Veronica Shanti Pereira, who had never won a major senior international medal other than multiple at the regional South East Asian Games, surprised everyone to win the women’s 100m title in a national record of 11.20 (0.0m/s). Iran’s Farzaneh Fasihi pipped China’s Ge Manqi, 11.39 to 11.40, for the silver. Hiroki Yanagita – part of Japan’s world U20 title-winning 4x100m team last year in Cali – improved his PB from 10.10 to 10.02 (0.0m/s) to win the men’s 100m.

The Japanese men also collected two other gold medals on the third day through Shunya Takayama in the 110m hurdles (13.29) and Ryoma Aoki in the 3000m steeplechase (8:34.91).  

China’s world champion Feng Bin improved her discus throw championship record to 66.42m, while India’s Parul Chaudhary claimed the women's 3000m steeplechase title in 9:38.76.

India's Parul Chaudhary in the 3000m steeplechase at the Asian Championships

India's Parul Chaudhary in the 3000m steeplechase at the Asian Championships (© Vinu Mohanan)

Memorable start for the hosts

The championships opened on a golden note for host nation Thailand on Wednesday (12) as the men’s 4x100m quartet of Natawat Iamudom, Chayut Khongprasit, Soraoat Dapbang and Puripol Boonson improved the championship record set by their compatriots in 2019 by clocking 38.66 in the heats and they went on to improve to 38.55 in the final.

Japan ruled the opening day with a top-notch victory in the women’s javelin throw, in which 27-year-old Marina Saito (61.67m) surprised China’s Olympic champion Liu Shiying (61.51m) for the gold. Sri Lankan Nadeesha Dilhani registered a personal best of 60.93m to complete the podium. 

Nozomi Tanaka rewrote the women’s championship 1500m record to 4:06.75, while Mariko Morimoto topped the triple jump with a leap of 14.06m. In the men’s 10,000m, Ren Tazawa outpowered Shadrack Kimutai Koech of Kazakhstan to win in 29:18.44. 

China got the lone gold on the opening day through their women’s 4x100m team, with Liang Xiaojing, Yuan Qiqi, Wei Yongli and Ge Manqi clocking 43.35. Japan (43.95) and Thailand (44.56) joined them on the podium.

Day two belongs to India and Japan

Athletes from India and Japan took three titles each on Thursday (13). Among the titles won for India, the most surprising came from Jyothi Yarraji in the women’s 100m hurdles. Yarraji was the fastest qualifier for the final with her 12.98 (0.8m/s) in the heats, which was just one hundredth of a second slower than the championship record held by Chian’s Feng Yan since 1998. 

The line-up in the final included Japan’s Asuka Terada and Masumi Aoki, the silver and bronze medallists in the previous edition of the championships. There was a sudden downpour prior to the final and China’s Wu Yanni, one of the favourites, had a false start and was disqualified. 

When the race began, Yarraji stumbled at the start before catching up with the Japanese duo at the seventh hurdle. She got the better of them at the finish, clocking 13.09 to win. 

Similarly, in the triple jump, India’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Abdulla Aboobacker was trailing in sixth place after the second round. He then leapt 16.92m in the fourth round, which fetched him the gold ahead of Japan’s Hikaru Ikehata (16.73m) and Korean Kim Jang-Woo (16.59m). Surprisingly, China’s Fang Yaoqing, the Asian indoor champion, and Wu Ruiting, the 2017 and 2019 World Championships finalist, finished fourth and eighth respectively.

In yet another surprise, Ajay Kumar Saroj came from behind to win the men’s 1500m in 3:41.51, adding to his gold (2017) and silver (2019) from the previous two Asian Championships.

Chinese hammer throwers dominated in both the men’s and women’s events, with Wang Qi (72.13m) and Zhao Jie (69.39m) taking the top spots.

In other Japanese victories, Kentaro Sato posted a personal best of 45.00 to win the 400m and Haruka Kokai clocked 32:59.36 in the women’s 10,000m, while the decathlon winner was Yuma Maruyama with 7745 points. India’s overnight leader Tejaswin Shankar finished third in the decathlon behind Maruyama and home favourite Suttisak Singkhon.

In other events, Sri Lankan Nadeesha Ramanayake improved her personal best to 52.61 to win the women’s 400m, while Kazakhstan’s Kristina Ovchinnikova clinched high jump gold by sailing over 1.86m.

Ram. Murali Krishnan for World Athletics