Preeja, Sudha tear formbook apart to create history
|Standing on top of the podium, Preeja Sreedharan struggled hard to keep her tears in check. |
| Cry, she didn’t, but her face truly captured the story of a gutsy run that tore the formbook to shreds at the Aoti Main Stadium on Sunday. |
An Indian winning the women’s 10000M gold at the Asian Games was unthinkable till Sunday. Indians winning gold and silver would have been beyond the wildest of dreams. That is exactly what happened on the day, with Preeja producing a national record breaking performance and Kavita Raut following her home in second position, stunning a 70,000-strong Sunday crowd.
The opening day of the athletics programme had more surprises in store from India with Sudha Singh delivering their second gold medal of the night in the women’s 3000M steeplechase, edging out China’s Jin Yuan in an exciting finish.
The women’s 10000M was introduced into the Asian Games programme at Seoul in 1986 and no Indian had won a medal in the event till Sunday. Preeja and Kavita had other ideas on a warm evening but they had a tough task in store with the field boasting of a clutch of champion performers.
Defending champion Kayoki Fukushi, ninth at the World Championships last year and the season‘s leader with 31:29.03, led the Japanese challenge while Bai Xue, world marathon champion and the Asian champion in this event, was China’s best bet. Also featuring was Bahrain’s ****aya Eshete Habtegebrel, a former Ethiopian.
But as the race unfolded, there was no clear leader even though it was Fukushi who led the runners through the first 2000 metres. Hikari Yoshimoto, the other Japanese in the fray and ****aya got into the picture with the Indians staying close to the leaders. With two laps to go, ****aya surged ahead and Preeja followed. Yoshimoto tried to keep the Japan challenge going but at the bell, it was the Bahraini who was in front.
Preeja, showing a sprinting ability not often witnessed, then swung into action and pulled away decisively. ****aya had another shock in store as Kavita surged ahead for the silver. Preeja timed 31:50.47, bettering her own national record of 32:49.47 while Kavita (31:51.44) also came under that mark.
“I am thankful to all those who prayed and supported me, I was always confident of this success” said the 28-year-old Preeja, who was in tears just a month back after a bout of fever had deprived her of a chance to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
“This medal is for my brother and mother,” added the Railway employee, who lost her father early and endured several hardships to reach this level.
Sudha Singh was another surprise winner, timing a national record of 9:55.67 in the event that is making its debut here. China’s Jin Yuan closed in menacingly in the final few metres and even celebrated prematurely at the finish, but that fraction of a second cost her as the Indian nicked the gold.
“I didn’t expect the gold, the Chinese runner put huge pressure on me,” said Sudha, who hails from Rae Bareilli in Uttar Pradesh.
India’s great day was also good news for coach Nikolai Snesarev, with all the three medalists coming from his stable. “I have a bunch of dedicated girls, they worked very hard over the last four months,” said Snesarev, a hard taskmaster if ever there was one.
In other events, India’s HM Jyothi qualified to the 100M semifinals, clocking 12.04 seconds. Abdul Najeeb Qureshi and KK Rane also progressed into the semifinals.
Manjeet Kaur and Mandeep Kaur made the final of the women’s 400M while SK Mortaja (47.75) and Bibin Mathew (46.93) missed out in the men’s quarter mile.
Results: Men: 5000M: Mahbeen Ali Hasan (Bahrain) 13:47.86, 1; James Kwalia Kurui (Qatar) 13:48.55, 2; Felix Kiore (Qatar) 13:49.31, 3. Sunil Kumar (India) 14:01.76, 8.
Hammer throw: Dilshod Nazarov (Tajikistan) 76.44 metres, 1; Kaveh Mousavi (Iran) 68.90, 2; Hiroaki Doi (Japan) 68.72, 3.
20Km walk: Wang Hao (China) 1:20:50, 1; Chu Yafei (China) 1:21:57, 2; Kim Hyunsub (South Korea) 1:22:47, 3. Harminder Singh (India) 1:26:33, 6; Baljinder Singh (India) 1:28:06, 7.
Women: 10000M: Preeja Sreedharan (India) 31:50.47 (National record. Old: 32:04.41) 1; Kavita Raut (India) 31: 51.44, 2; ****aya Eshete Habtegebrel (Bahrain) 31:53.27, 3.
3000M steeplechase: Sudha Singh (India) 9:55.67, 1; Jin Yuan (China) 9:55.71, 2; Minori Hayakari (Japan) 10:01.25, 3; OP Jaisha (India) 10:18.97, 5.
Shot put: Li Ling (China) 19.94 metres, 1; Lijiao Gong (China) 19.67, 2; Lee Mi Young (South Korea) 17.51, 3.