Doha: P U Chitra led the charge with a gold in women’s 1500m race as India picked up five medals on the fourth and final day of competitions to end at fourth at the medal tally in the Asian Athletics Championships here on Wednesday.
Chitra defended the title she had won in the 2017 edition to give India its third gold medal while Ajay Kumar Saroj (men’s 1500m) and the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams clinched a silver each at the Khalifa Stadium.
Sprinter Dutee Chand added a bronze in women’s 200m to take India’s medal tally to 3 Gold, 8 silver and 7 bronze. India had won 29 medals (12 Gold, 5 silver, 12 bronze) in the last edition in Bhubaneswar in 2017, topping the medal tally for the first time.
This time, Bahrain topped the medal tally with 11 gold, 7 silver and 4 bronze, followed by China (10 gold, 12 silver, 8 bronze) and Japan (5 gold, 4 silver, 9 bronze). This was the second time since 1983 that China has been pushed to the second spot.
India did it in 2017 while Bahrain did the same this time. India’s tally of 18 medals can be considered creditable as the team was a depleted one without some of the medal contenders, including star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, due to injuries.
The championships as usual did not see some of the best athletes in the world who preferred to focus on the World Championships to be held at the same venue in September-October. For India, the spotlight of the final day fell on Chitra as she beat two Bahraini runners to clinch the gold in the women’s 1500m race.
She overtook Bahraini runner Tigest Gashaw just a few metres before the finishing line to win the race in 4 minute 14.56 seconds. This was India’s third gold of the championships after Gomathi Marimuthu (women’s 800m) and Tejinder Pal Singh Toor (men’s shot put) won a yellow metal each on the second day on Monday.
Gashaw clocked 4:14.81 for the silver while another Bahraini Mutile Winfred Yavi took the bronze in 4:16.18. “Got a little nervous towards the end being next to Bahraini runner (Gashaw Tigest). She beat me to third place in Asian Games. I had to really push hard in the end,” said the 23-year-old Chitra who had won a bronze in the Jakarta Asian Games.
Chitra had won gold in the 2017 edition in Bhubaneswar in 4:17.92. While Chitra defended her title, her male counterpart Saroj (1500m) and the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams failed to do the same.
Saroj, who had won gold in 2017, clocked a season best time of 3 minute 43.18 seconds to clinch a silver behind Bahrain’s Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich who clocked 3:42.85. The women’s 4x400m relay quartet of Prachi, Poovamma, Saritaben Gayakwad and VK Vismaya finished second with a time of 3:32.21, behind the Bahraini quartet who clocked 3:32.10.
The men’s 4x400m relay team also lost the gold they won in 2007 at home as the quartet of Kunhu Mohd, K S Jeevan, Muhammed Anas and Arokia Rajiv finished second with time of 3:03.28, behind Japan (3:02.94).
Dutee, who had finished a disappointing fifth in the 100m final on Tuesday after smashing national record twice, clocked 23.24 seconds to win the bronze in the women’s 200m. After falling behind in the first 100m, she covered a lot of ground in the final 100m stretch and got past three competitors at the finish line.
Salwa Naser of Bahrain expectedly took the gold in 22.74 while Olga Safronova of Kazakhstan was second in 22.87. The 23-year-old Dutee, who had won a 200m silver in the Jakarta Asian Games, still missed the World Championships qualifying mark of 23.02. She has a personal best of 23.00.
“I am really very happy. I missed a medal in 100m & relay. I put too much effort in 100m, was not sure of medal in 200m. Just did my best & I am happy,” Dutee said. In the women’s discus throw, Navjeet Kaur (57.47m) and Kamalpreet Kaur (55.59m) came up with disappointing shows to finish fourth and fifth, respectively.