Unheralded Gomathi Marimuthu opened India’s gold medal tally at the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar with a superb finish in the women’s 800m final, recording a personal best timing of 2:02.70 seconds.
Asian Games champion Tajinder Pal Toor then added the second gold medal to India’s tally later in the evening, clinching the top spot in the podium in men’s shot put with a season’s best throw of 20.22 metres.
Behind Gomathi, Wang Chunyu of China finished second (2:02.96) while Margarita Mukasheva of Kazakhstan finished third.
Gomathi did not have the best of finishes to the first lap after being pushed down to the back end but she bounced back in tremendous fashion to join the front two. As the top three started pulling away in the final stretch, the Indian was still trailing the Chinese athlete. But with a tremendous final push, Gomathi edged past Chunyu and celebrated her gold medal.
“Did not realise till I crossed the finish line that I have won a gold medal. Last 150m was a very tight race,” Gomathi was quoted as saying by Athletics Federation of India.
This was third time lucky for Gomathi, who had finished seventh in the Asian Championship in 2013 and fourth in 2015. She had to come through a confirmatory trial in Patiala where she was paced by quartermiler MR Poovamma. She did not need such support on the track this time as she drew from the energy and intensity to deliver a good performance.
In the shot put final, Tajinder’s first attempt turned out to be his best as he led from start to finish to finish on top.
“Started well but lost rhythm in between. A throw beyond 21 metres is the target. Will be happy if that comes at Worlds,” Tajinder was quoted as saying by AFI.
The 24-year-old Toor, who has a personal best of 20.75m, had entered into the championships as the season leader among the Asians and he lived up to the top billings.
Elsewhere, it was a silver double in javelin throw for India as Shivpal Singh finished second in men’s event with a personal best attempt of 86.23 metres. It was a superb effort from the Indian, who joined Annu Rani to finish second on the podium. The throw also saw Singh clear the mark for the World Championships later in the year.
India’s day two started with two bronze medals. Jabir MP won men’s 400m hurdles bronze medal with a personal best 49.13 secs and qualified for Worlds. Abdelrehman Samba won gold in that event. The other bronze was won by Saritaben Gayakwad in women’s 400m hurdles with a timing of 57.22 seconds.
In the process, the 22-year-old Jabir joined national record holder Dharun Ayyasamy as the second Indian to qualify for the World Championships 400m hurdles event to be held at the same venue in September-October. The World Championships qualifying mark is 49.30 secs. Dharun, who set a new national record of 48.80 during the Federation Cup last month, missed this Asian Championships due to injury.
Dutee Chand, despite breaking her own national record for the second time in two days, could not finish on the podium after a fifth-placed finish in the final. In the semi-final, she had clocked 11.26 secs to finish comfortably first in her race. In the final, however, she could not finish the race strongly, clocking a time of 11.44 secs.
There was no medal in the men’s 400m and 800m finals for India despite two athletes being in contention in both events. Mohammed Anas finished eighth, while Arokia Rajiv finished fourth with a Personal Best timing. Arokia clocked 45.37 secs while Anas’ timing was 46.10 secs.
In the 800m final, Jinson Johnson (the Asian Games silver medallist) had to pull out of the final towards the final quarter of the race seemingly with a non-contact injury. Mohammad Afsal finished seventh in that event.
There was another injury blow for India with Praveen Chitravel unable to finish his triple jump event. India’s medal tally stands at two gold, three silver and five bronze medals.