Some of the best and most enduring moments were witnessed this week as Indian athletes, high on energy, gave it their all, as the six-day athletics programme at the Asian Games 2018 concluded with a strong message being sent out — that India was not willing to accept defeat anymore.
The 4x400m women’s relay quartet was a bundle of joy. Dead tired and sweating profusely, had someone told them to do 10 victory laps, Hima Das, MR Poovamma, Sarita Gayakwad and VK Vismaya would have obliged.
After clinching India’s fifth consecutive Asian Games relay title in a row in 3:28.72 secs — and dealing a crushing blow on Bahrain’s imported athletes — they celebrated as if there was no tomorrow.
Kerala boy Jinson Johnson made it look so simple in the end in 1500m, it seemed as if he was drawing energy from the huge crowd gathered at the GBK Stadium. With a time of 3:44.72, he was a good one second ahead of silver-medallist from Iran, Amir Moradi. SILVER FOR MEN’S TEAM
The Indian men’s 4x400m relay quartet of Dharun Ayyasamy, P Kunhu Muhammed, Muhammed Anas and Rajiv Arokia used the last reserves of their energy to win silver with a time of 3:01.85 min.
Discus thrower Seema Antil, all keyed up to defend her title at the Games, was, however, let down by a spur in her right foot which has been troubling her since the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Unfortunately, the tempo was lost after her poor first throw of 58.51 and following that she couldn’t do much against the menacing Chinese competitors, Chen Yang (65.12 metres) and Feng Bin (64.25), who finished first and second respectively, pushing the seasoned thrower to third spot.
The slim PU Chitra was only too happy to win her maiden Asian Games medal in 1500m, her toothy smile saying it all. Hailing from Palakkad in Kerala, she timed 4:12.56, not her personal best but good enough for bronze. Bahrain’s Kalkidan Befkadu and Belay Tigist finished one-two, clocking 4:07.88 and 4:09.12. As the track and field events concluded on Thursday, India had a haul of seven gold, 10 silver and two bronze.
Hima’s early charge
The women’s 4x400m team’s strategy was to beat the Bahrain athletes at their game — speed. Hima Das was chosen as the first runner and the strategy worked.
By the time she handed the baton to seasoned Poovamma, India were leading by more than one and-a-half seconds, courtesy her timing of 52.13.
Poovamma ran an even more inspired race clocking 52.07. Though Sarita Gayakwad and VK Vismaya slackened, the initial momentum had done the job. Johnson from Kerala was the leader of the pack and had “conserved enough energy” for the last 80 metres to ensure a medal after he had faltered in the last 50 metres in 800m two days back to give the gold to Manjit Singh.
“It is a sweet revenge for me,” said Johnson, who overcame a late push from Moradi to win in 3:44.72 minutes. Manjit finished a distant fourth, clocking 3:46.57.
However, as the day’s proceedings ended, one felt sad for Seema Punia — for the sheer amount of flak she has taken over the years and still managed to win gold at Incheon and bronze here. So, is retirement on the cards, someone asked. “Definitely not,” replied Seema.