While the Indian focus in the 3000m Steeplechase has been firmly on Avinash Sable for a while now, Parul Chaudhary has been grafting away in the background, repeatedly breaking personal and national records among the women. On Monday, she finally stepped into the limelight with an emphatic silver behind world champion Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain for India’s 12th athletics medal at the Asian Games here.
Priti Lamba’s third place finish in the event added cheer to the Indian contingent and Ancy Sojan’s brilliance on the long jump pit earned another silver, as did the 4x400m mixed relay team. But while the others were applauded, the relay team’s performance – the reigning champions was a let down both in terms of the medal and the timing.
Chaudhary kept pace with Yavi for most part of the race even as the Bahrainian led from start to finish. With two laps to go, the duo broke away from the rest of the pack while Priti and Tigest Getent Mekonen stuck together for 3-4 positions. And while Yavi finished almost 80m ahead on the final stretch, it took a final burst of acceleration for Priti to go past the post for bronze in a personal best timing of 9:43.32.
“My father doesn’t keep well. First he said ‘you participate in the Asian Games I will be satisfied’. Then when I made the team he said, ‘you just get a medal’. Today he was very happy but I am sure there will be a new demand tomorrow,” Priti laughed.
On the long jump pit, the spotlight has been shining brightly on Shaili Singh for a while now. But teammate Ancy saved her big leap for the big stage to snatch the limelight -- and silver -- ahead of her more fancied rival. While Ancy managed a personal best of 6.63m, Shaili finished a disappointing fifth with a best jump of 6.48m even as China’s Shiqi Xiong took gold with 6.73m.
“Of course I expected a medal here. I knew I could do it, that it is in my hands. If I have to be a champion, I have to do better than the existing champions and beat them and today I managed to do that. I am very happy with my performance and I am sure I can do even better. This season I have already crossed this distance but kept losing everywhere. After the ATF (Asian Championships) I was sad for a week. Mentally I was very prepared to follow my process and we will see whether I win a medal or not later. I did that and the result is coming,”Ancy said.
The mixed relay team, meanwhile, saw Mohd. Ajmal give a good leadoff to stay close to the Bahrain’s Musa Ali Isah but a disappointing second leg by Vithya Ramraj saw India slip and they never came back, finishing 3rd in 3:14.34 behind Bahrain and Sri Lanka before the latter was disqualified for lane infringement to hand India the silver. AFI president Adille Sumariwalla, however, made his displeasure clear with the runners.
At the far end of the field, Tejaswin Shankar kept raising the bar, going on top after five events in the Decathlon with 4260 points. Tejaswin, who was fifth after three events in the morning session, took full advantage of his favourite event, the high jump, to go back in first position. While the rest of the field cleaned out at 1.97m, he started at that mark and went up to 2.21m before retiring, only to return and win the 400m to increase the lead.
Equalling Usha’s record
Amidst the medal hype, however, what went unnoticed was Vithya’s incredible run in the 400m Hurdles heats in the morning that saw her equal one of Indian athletics’s oldest-standing records -- PT Usha’s 55.42sec, set 39-year ago at the 1984 Olympics. It was a personal best and enough for her to qualify for the finals but it remains to be seen whether, after two one-lap races in a day, she has enough left in the tank for the finals on Tuesday.
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