Ehsan Hadadi winning his fifth Asian discus title (© Rahul Pawar)
Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi, the London Olympics silver medallist, won a fifth Asian title in the discus to highlight the opening day of the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneswar, India, on Thursday (6).
The 32-year-old Area record-holder won four consecutive titles from 2005 through 2011, but had to skip the 2013 edition hosted by India at Pune and drew a ‘blank’ with three consecutive foul throws at Wuhan two years later. He came to Bhubaneswar as a last minute entrant to make amends for his 2015 showing. His first throw at Kalinga Stadium of 61.67m sealed the victory as no other throwers managed to throw farther than 61 metres. However, he produced a solid series capped by a 64.54m season's best in the sixth round.
India’s Vikas Gowda, who won back-to-back Asian titles in 2013 and 2015, only recently recovered from injuries that plagued him last season and finished third with 60.81m. The world and Olympic finalist finished 15cm behind Malaysian youngster Mohd Irfan Shamsuddin who took silver.
Li Lingwei breaks championships javelin record
Host India managed to match Asian powerhouse China as both teams garnered two gold medals apiece on the opening day.
Pole vaulter Ding Bangchao, the Chinese national champion with a 5.70m personal best this season, was an easy winner at 5.65m. Japan’s Masaki Ejima, who finished second, cleared the same height for an Asian U20 record.
China’s second gold came courtesy of javelin thrower Li Lingwei. Her fifth round 63.06m was a new championship record and also bettered German Petra Felke’s 27-year-old Indian all-comers’ record of 62.80m. Lingwei earlier won the Asian title at Pune. As in Pune, another Sri Lankan won silver in this edition through Nadeesha Dilhani Lekamge (58.11m), ahead of India’s Asian Games bronze medalist Annu Rani (57.32m).
Manpreet, Lakshmanan take gold for India
Shot putter Manpreet Kaur’s inconsistency worried the Indian camp. However she came up with a good 18.28m throw on her third attempt, enough to put her on top of the podium. Defending champion Guo Tianqian ended with silver as her best throw of the day could not go beyond 17.91m.
In the men's 5000m contest, a field that included Saudi Arabia’s Tariq Ahmed Al-Amri and Qatar’s Yaser Salem, Indian G Lakshmanan emerged as a surprise winner. In a tactical race, Lakshmanan surprised the field over the final lap to win in 14:54.48, the slowest winning time ever at the Asian Championships.
“When I realised that the race was going slow and no one took the initiative to pull, I jumped at the front to grab the title from others,” said Lakshmanan, a bronze medallist in the last edition at Wuhan, who has a 13:36.62 personal best from 2015. The victory earned him a berth on the London-bound World Championships squad. He became the third Indian winner in the event after Gopal Saini (13:52.22 in 1981) and Bahadur Prasad (13:41.70 in 1993).
In the women’s race Kyrgyzstan’s Wuhan bronze medallist Darya Maslova beat 2015 silver medallist Alia Mohamed Saeed of United Arab Emirates by two seconds, clocking 15:57.95.
Weather conditions were the primary cause of the slow performances. When the evening session commenced the mercury was at 32 C. It then increased due to stadium's huge flood lights.
The women’s long jump saw an interesting battle between Vietnam’s 25-year-old Bui Thi Thu Thao and Indian V Neena. Thao, the 2014 Asian Games silver medallist, registered a decent 6.54m but fouled in each of her next four jumps. Neena matched it with an identical 6.54m in the fourth round, aiming to gain the top spot. However the Vietnamese reached 6.44m in the final round to pocket the gold on countback. India completed the podium with Nayana James who reached 6.42m.
After one day, India leads the medal tally with two gold, one silver and four bronze. China is next with two gold and one silver while Iran, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan have one gold apiece. Twelve nations won medals on the opening day.
Ram. Murali Krishnan for the IAAF