Li Ling, winner of the pole vault at the Asian Indoor Championships (© Organisers)
Two Asian records and five championship records fell on the first day of action at the Asian Indoor Championships in Doha, but Mutaz Barshim earned the loudest cheers with his high jump victory on Friday (19).
Entering the competition with an easy clearance at 2.24m, the world indoor champion and Olympic bronze medallist needed two tries at both 2.31m and 2.35m before sailing clear.
But he didn’t really come alive until the bar was raised to a would-be world-leading 2.40m. He came closest with his third attempt, just grazing the bar with his calves before falling back to earth.
“Sometimes all you expect from a competition is to win, but there are also days you aim for the record,” said Barshim, who topped 2.36m in Malmo, Sweden, six days ago. “Today I focused on winning the Asian title.
“I am not setting goals prior to each meeting, to jump 2.40m or higher. I am concentrating in each attempt, taking it step by step.”
Barshim confirmed that he won’t compete again until the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 in four weeks’ time.
Li Ling improves Asian pole vault record to 4.70m
Another of the evening’s standout performances came in the women’s pole vault where it was China’s Li Ling who dominated.
After winning the competition at 4.40m, she added first-attempt clearances at 4.50m, 4.60m and 4.70m to add 19 centimetres to her own Asian indoor record set in Xianlin one year ago. It was also an outright Asian record for the 26-year-old, whose previous PB of 4.66m was the outdoor Asian record.
“I was ready to jump 4.80m, but even 4.70m, a new absolute area record, is a very satisfying result,” said the 1.85m-tall Li, a finalist at the World Championships in Beijing last year.
“It was only my first competition indoors this year and I hope I will jump higher in Portland when it matters most. I am confident I can do better than that. I don’t only want to be the tallest pole vaulter, but also the best.”
Taftian and Zybakina take 60m titles
There was a surprise in the men’s 60 metres, where Hassan Taftian pulled away from the field to prevail in 6.56, a championships record, to lead a 1-2 sweep for Iran.
“I am so excited I have never run faster before," said the 2012 Asian junior 100m champion, who reached the semifinals at least year’s World Championships, having clocked a national record of 10.10 earlier in the year. Here he improved his 60m career best by 0.09, an important step, he said, towards his goal of reaching the Olympic final later this year.
Teammate Reza Ghasemi took silver in 6.66 with Eric Shauwn Cray (6.70) of the Philippines finishing third, having broken the championship record with 6.57 in the semifinals.
Disappointment struck host Qatar in the semifinals when three-time champion Samuel Francis and teammate Tosin Ogunode, both medal favourites, exited the competition with false start disqualifications.
In the women’s race Viktoriya Zyabkina of Kazakhstan overcame a sluggish start to win handily in a championship record of 7.27, well clear of China’s Yuan Qiqi (7.33).
“My start is always sluggish, but today I didn’t pay the price as I managed to catch my opponents and beat them,” Zyabkina said. “If I improve my start, I can run 7.05.”
Landmark titles for Johny and Desalegn
Mayookha Johny controlled the long jump competition from the outset, with a 6.35m leap, an effort that propelled her to India's first Asian indoor title in the event. Bui Thi Thu Thao of Vietnam took silver with a 6.30m best, with Olga Rypakova finishing third for Kazakhstan. Rypakova returns to action on Saturday in her main event, the triple jump.
Elsewhere, Betlhem Desalegn of United Arab Emirates blew by 2013 world youth champion Tigist Gashaw with 100 metres to go to prevail in a tactical 1500m contest, beating the Bahraini by more than half a second in 4:21.65 to claim the first medal ever at these championships for the UAE.
Geng Shuang led a 1-2 finish for China in the women's shot put with an 18.06m effort, more than half a metre better than Guo Tianqian.
The morning’s opening round action included an Asian 400m record by Oluwakemi Adekoya of Bahrain. In a solo effort, and competing in what was her first ever indoor race, the 23-year-old clocked 51.68 to break the previous mark of 52.27 set by Li Yajun of China in 1996.
Three different athletes broke the championship record in the men’s 400m throughout the course of the day. Bahrain’s Abubaker Abbas clocked a national record of 47.34 in his first-round heat to break the previous championship best of 47.81 set in 2010. Kazakhstan's Mikhail Litvin then shaved another 0.06 off the championship record with his 47.28 clocking in his heat just a few minutes later.
But even that mark didn’t make it to the end of the day as Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun sped to a 46.38 victory in the semifinals during the evening session.
Bob Ramsak (organisers) for the IAAF