Dominant displays by Lyu Huihui and Gong Lijiao in the women’s javelin and shot put respectively gave China a headstart as they attempt to reclaim their top spot at the Asian Athletics Championships as the 23rd edition of the event got underway to a cracking start at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha yesterday.
The championships began in the presence of Qatar Olympic Committee first vice-president Sheikh Saud bin Ali al-Thani, Asian Athletics Association president and IAAF vice-president Dahlan al-Hamad, Qatar Athletics Federation president and QOC second vice-president Dr Thani al-Kuwari, QOC secretary-general Jassim al-Buenain, and other officials.
China had missed out on the top spot at the last edition in 2017 to event hosts India, but the two-time World Championships medallist Huihui put them one up early in the evening session on the first day yesterday.
Lyu started the javelin competition with a bang, beating the championship record of 63.06m with 64.92m, and then stamping her authority with a second effort of 65.83m to take gold. India’s Annu Rani clinched the silver with her first effort of 60.22m, while Thailand’s Nattan Nachan was third with 56.01m.
“It has been a fantastic season for me so far, with a new Area record and now today with a new Championships’ record. I worked hard during winters and changed a basic element of my technique regarding my final step. After two medals at World Championships, a gold and a silver, I believe I am ready to win the gold here in Doha in this marvellous stadium,” Lyu said after the win.
There was no stopping Gong, who prepped for the IAAF World Athletics Championships with a dominant display in the women’s shot put, her first appearance at the Asian championships in 10 years. The reigning World Champion was the only one to go past the 19m mark, winning with her second effort of 19.18m.
Bahrain’s Noora Jasim won silver with an 18m effort, while Gong’s compatriot Song Jiayuan took home the bronze with 17.70.
Moments before Rani won her silver, Parul Chaudhary gave India their first medal of the championships, winning bronze in the women’s 5,000m, with a personal best time of 15:36.03. Chaudhary ran a steady race beating compatriot Sanjivani Baburao Jadhav, who had earlier kept pace with two Bahrainis – winner Winfred Mutile Yavi (15:28.87) and runner-up Bontu Rebitu (15:29.60) – but fell back in the later stages.
The morning session had seen India’s World U20 reigning champion Hima Das pull out of the women’s 400m first round heat. The 19-year-old did not finish the heat in the first session yesterday, owing to back spasms, something that has been called “nothing serious” in the team’s statement. Das was also scheduled to take part in the 4x400m relay, besides the mixed relay.
The morning session, however, ended on a high for the Indian contingent when Dutee Chand ran a personal best and a national record 11.28 to qualify for the semi-finals in the women’s 100m. “I am not surprised with the national record. I can go even faster, the target is 11.20,” Chand said after the heats.
Avinash Mukund Sable won India’s second silver on the day when he finished runner-up to Bahrain’s John Kibet Koech in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase, while Japan’s Kazuya Shiojiri was third.
Qatar’s Yaser Bagharab, silver winner at the last edition in Bhubaneswar, India, in 2017, had to settle for fifth, behind 2017 gold winner Hossein Keyhani of Iran.
Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi broke his 12-year-old championship record with his final attempt in the men’s discus throw landing at 65.95m.
Compatriot Behnam Shrijabilou was the only other athlete to land the discus past the 60m mark, and he took home silver for that, while Jordanian Musab Momani threw his season best 58.27 for bronze.
“That was my sixth medal at this competition, and I am still waiting for the one who will succeed me in Asia,” a confident Hadadi beamed. “Maybe my fellow compatriot Behnam Shrijabilou.” He added: “My main goals are the World Championships here in Doha and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I am not that young anymore, I am 34, so I take step by step, no rush.”
He also gave a massive thumbs-up to the state-of-the-art venue, saying, “Khalifa stadium is so cool with this cooling system.” Qatar’s Moaaz Mohamed Ibrahim threw a 57.44 for fifth place.
Ernest John Obeina of the Philippines broke the 26-year-old championship record in the men’s pole vault for a well-deserved gold.
Obeina was the only one to clear 5.71m, beating the 1993 record of 5.70m by Grigoriy Yegoriv of Kazakhstan.
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