Asian Athletics Championships 2019: India grabs 17 medals in the four-day saga
The lights have dimmed out inside the premises of the Khalifa International Stadium in the capital city of Qatar. The 23rd edition of the Asian Athletics Championships has drawn to a close with the arena lying witness to some classic performances, especially by the Indian and Bahraini contingents. In the previous edition of the Championships held in Bhubaneswar, India had given its best ever performance by winning 29 medals. However, India has fallen short by a dozen medals this time and has bagged 17 medals to finish 4th on the table.
The fourth and final day of the event began with the Discus Throw finals. Kamalpreet Kaur and Navjeet Dhillon competed in it. However, neither Dhillon nor Kamalpreet managed to register any medal wins and finished fourth and fifth respectively on the table. Dhillon threw her best of 57.47 meters while Kamal Preet could not get it past 55.59 meters.
One of the star attractions of the day was definitely Dutee Chand. The 23-year-old from Jajpur had broken two National Records on the first 2 days of the tournament and created quite the buzz. Participating in the 200 meter finals, Dutee ran to clock her season's best time at 23.24 seconds and grabbed a bronze medal, in the process. She finished in the third slot behind Bahrain's Salwa Naser and Kazakhstan's Olga Safronova. Sadly, Dutee's 23.24 seconds timing isn't enough to grant her an entry into the September-October scheduled World Championships.
The big win of the day came from the women's 1500 meter race where PU Chitra and Lili Das hustled to win a medal for India on the final day of the tournament. The defending champion of the 1500 meter category, PU Chitra emerged in top form as she smartly side stepped the efforts of the Bahrainis who tried to block her path and waylay her. Chitra remained in cruise control and did not flinch while storming past former two-time gold medalist Yavi Winfred and under-18 World Champion, Gashaw Tigest. The 23-year-old from Kerala remained clear in her focus and overtook the Bahraini duo to make a final dash for the gold and defend her win from the previous edition. In a matter of 4:14:56 seconds, Chitra clinched gold and booked herself a direct ticket to the World Championships later this year.
In the men's 1500 meter final event, it was Ajay Kumar Saroj who showed enough grit and stamina to overtake three competitors in the final lap and really pushed the accelerator button to get his hands on a silver medal. With Jinson Johnson, having had to bow out due to a muscle strain, Saroj ensured India did not feel the lack of the army man as he shouldered the responsibility and clocked a silver medal win in 3:43:18 seconds.
In the next event, it was the men's 5000m final, with India's Murli Kumar Tulsyabhai Gavit and Abhishek Pal due to compete. However the duo failed to get any medals and finished fifth and sixth respectively, on the board. Another star attraction of the day was the 4x400 meter women's final which saw India in the lead in the first lap and then slowing down after a clumsy baton exchange in the second lap at the 800 meter mark. The squad comprising Prachi, MR Poovamma, Saritaben Gayakwad and VK Vismaya managed to make amends when Vismaya steered the road towards a gold finish but had to settle for a silver as Bahrain's Salwa Naser, took care of the final lap and dashed out of nowhere like a superjet to win gold for Bahrain in the last 50 meter. The Indians clocked their silver medal win in a season's best 3:32:21 seconds lap whilst thanks to Naser, Bahrain finished in just 3:32:10 seconds. What an absolutely brilliant team effort!
On the men's side, it was Kunhu Mohammed, KS Jeevan, Muhammed Anas and Arokia Rajiv participating in the 4x400 meter relay event. The Indians finished second in 3:03.28 seconds but sadly, was later disqualified under rule 163.2 (impeding an athlete). Japan won the gold (3:02.94s) while China took the silver. India filed an appeal against the decision but it was rejected.
The four-day athletic saga event drew to a close with that and India finishes with 17 medals to its name. With 3 gold medals, 7 silver and 7 bronze medals, India's loot has been satisfactory from the Championships. Although there were a lot of hiccups in some of the assured medal events, India seems to have managed to keep a fine form till the very end of the tournament and finish fourth on the medal table with 17 glistening medals to boast and be proud of.