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Indian women clinch 4x400m relay gold at Asian Athletics C'ship

Indian women clinch 4x400m relay gold at Asian Athletics Cship

Pune: India clinched a gold medal in women's 400m relay in a sensational race to finish sixth overall as the curtains were drawn on the 20th Asian Athletics Championships with China confirming their supreme status in the continent on Sunday.

The home team came up with a rich haul of eight medals, one gold, two silvers and five bronzes on the fifth and final day to give the housefull Chhatrapati Shivaji Stadium crowd a lot to cheer.

India ended the Championships with two golds, five silvers and 10 bronzes, a much improved performance than the last edition in 2011 in Kobe, Japan where they had finished seventh with one gold, three silvers and eight bronzes.

Vikas Gowda had won India's other gold in men's discus throw on the second day on Thursday.

Besides, the gold from relay team comprising M R Poovamma, Tintu Luka, Anu Mariam Jose and Nirmala, India won a silver and a bronze in men's triple jump through Renjith Maheswary and Arpinder Singh. India also bagged a silver and bronze in women's 200m through Asha Roy and Dutee Chand respectively.

Luka, Satinder Singh and Jithin C Thomas added a bronze each in women's 800m, men's 400m hurdles and men's high jump respectively.

The women's 4x400m relay team, which was caught in a controversy after India wanted to include dope-tainted Ashwini Akkunji only to be rejected by competition technical delegate, also made it to next month's World Championships in Moscow as they went past the qualifying time of 3:33.00s.

With the gold in women's 4x400m relay, India continued its domination in the continent having won a gold each in the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Asian Championships while finishing second in 2009 and 2011. India have also won gold in the last three Asian Games since 2002 in Busan.

As expected, China, who had been ruling the Asian Championships for the last 15 editions, finished at the top spot with 16 golds, six silvers and five bronzes.

Bahrain were a distant third with five golds, seven silvers and three bronzes while Japan jumped to third with a strong performance on Sunday with four golds, six silvers and 10 bronzes.

Saudi Arabia (4 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze) were fourth while Uzbekistan (3 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze) finished fifth.

The Indian supporters went wild when Poovamma, Luka, Mariam Jose and Nirmala won the 4x400m relay, the penultimate event of the day, in 3:32.26.

The Indian quartet won the race in such a convincing fashion that they went past the finishing line with China (3:35.31) behind by around 10 meters at second place. The four young girls ran a victory lap with the tri-colour draped around them to acknowledge the support from the crowd.

Nirmala took a small lead in the first lap but Luka, who had won a bronze just an hour back in 800m, extended the lead. But, by the end of the third lap, Mariam Jose had given India a huge lead before Poovamma, the fastest among the quartet, blasted home to wild cheers of the crowd.

"All of us ran our best in the relay and we are proud of winning a gold medal for the country," Poovamma later said at a press conference on behalf of all the four.

"We have forgotten all the disappointment in our individual events and ran as a team," Poovamma, who finished second in the women's 400m.

India had also hoped for a gold from national record holder triple jumper Renjith Maheswary but he had to settle for a silver with a jump of 16.76m. He lost the gold to 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist Cao Shuo of China by one centimetre.

Young Arpinder Singh was third with an effort of 16.58m while Asian season leader Roman Valiyev was fourth with 16.55m.

"I feel I made small technical mistake today as I lost the contest by just one centimetre. The wet run-up also did not help," he said.

"But a silver and bronze by India is a good result though I and Arpinder had told ourselves that we should win a gold and silver," said Maheswary who has already qualified for next month's World Championships in Moscow.

It was, however, a disappointment for women's 800m runner Tintu Luka, who finished third in same old characteristic fashion, leading the till around the second lap bend and then losing steam at the home stretch to clock a modest 2:04.48.

The PT Usha protege, who had won a bronze in the 2011 edition also, could not reserve her energy for the final kick and was left behind by eventual gold and silver winners Wang Chunyu of China and Regasa Genzeb Shumi of Bahrain who clocked 2:02.47 and 2:04.16 respectively.

Luka's timing was below her season's best of 2:03.61 and personal and national record timing of 1:59.17.

India bagged a silver and a bronze in women's 200m race through Asha Roy and Dutee Chand, who were running in their first international races, respectively.

23-year-old Roy clocked 23.71 seconds, a tad slower than her personal best of 23.59secs which she had clocked while winning gold in last month's National Inter-State Championships.

Chand, who is just 17, ran her personal best of 23.82secs to pip reigning Asian Games champion and last edition of Asian Championships winner Chisato Fukushima for the bronze in a photo finish. The two clocked the same timing but the Indian was declared third. Viktoriya Zyabkina of Kazakhstan won the gold in 23.62secs.

Roy said she had mixed feelings about her achievement. "On one hand I am happy that I won a medal in my first international event. On the other hand, I am disappointed that I could not win a gold and qualify for next month's World Championships," she said later.

"Had I run my personal best which I did in National Inter-State I would have won a gold," she rued.

For Chand though, it was a day to cherish in her fledging career.

"I have been in the junior category and brought to senior by my coach (N Ramesh). What more I can dream off? I just hope that I will do better and better in future," said Chand who will also represent India in the World Youth Championships later this month.

China bagged the men's 200m gold with Xie Zhenye winning the event in 20.87secs.

Satinder Singh bagged a surprise bronze in men's 400m hurdles by clocking 50.35secs in the first medal-deciding race of the day. Satinder pipped last edition's silver medallist Yuta Imazeki of Japan by one-hundredth of a second.

Satinder fell down on the tracks when he made a desperate lunge at the finish line and had to be attended by ground staff for a brief while before regaining his composure.

Yasuhiro Fueki of Japan won the race in 49.86secs while Cheng Wen of China bagged the silver in 50.07secs.

Japan took gold and silver in the men's 400m hurdles with Satomi Kubokura winning the race for a record fourth successive time in the Asian Championships since the 2007 edition.

She clocked 56.82secs today while she has a personal best of 5.34secs. Her compatriot Kira Manami was second in 57.78secs while Jo Eun Ju of Korea was third in 8.21secs.

M R Elavarasi finished last while another Indian Anu Raghavan did not start in the race.

In men's high jump, Jithin Thomas bagged a silver with a jump of 2.21m. The top three jumpers cleared an identical 2.21m.

But with none clearing the next height (2.24m) and their total number of failures in the event remains the same, there was a 'jump-off' to decide the gold medal position.

China's Bi Xiaoling, after missing 2.22m and 2.20m, cleared the 2.18 on the 'one golden chance' and declared the winner while Thomas and Keyvan Ghanbarzadeh of Iran were both awarded a silver each.

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