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India finish on top at Asian athletics meet

India finish on top at Asian athletics meet

Bhubaneswar: India won five gold medals on the final day of the Asian Athletics Championships to finish at the top of the standings here on Sunday with a dozen gold in total.

Neeraj Chopra (men's javelin), Govindan Laxmanan (men's 10,000 metres) and Swapna Burman (women's heptathlon) along with the men's and women's teams in the 4x400m relays won gold medals in their respective events.

Neeraj, who had created waves at the world level, also created a new meet record with an effort of 85.23 metres. Davinder Singh Kang of India took bronze in the event.

Gopi Thonakal made it a 1-2 for India in the men's 10,000m by taking the silver. Jinson Johnson fetched a bronze for India in the men's 800m.

India thus took the top spot in the medal standings with 12 gold, five silver and 12 bronze.

This is the best performance by Indian athletes at the Asian Championships so far. Their previous best finish was in the last edition in 2013 at Wuhan, China, where they finished third with 4 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze.

Continental powerhouse China lagged far behind in second place with eight gold, seven silver and five bronze.

Kazakhstan were third with four gold, two silver and two bronze.

The final day was, however, not without its share of controversy as Archana Yadav, who crossed the line first in the women's 800m final, was stripped of the gold medal for pushing Nimali Waliwarsha Konda of Sri Lanka during the final stretch.

Yadav had produced a powerful sprint in the final stretch to register a time of two minutes and five seconds.

However, following her disqualification, Nimali who posted 2:05.23, was awarded the gold while her compatriot Gayanthika Thusari took the silver with 2:05.27.

Fumika Omori of Japan, who had originally finished fourth with 2:06.50, was upgraded to bronze.

However, the jampacked home crowd at the Kalinga Stadium soon forgot that disappointment as the other Indians made it a day to remember.

Chopra had a slow start to his campaign in the men's javelin with progressively improving efforts of 78.39, 78.54 and 83.06 in the early stages.

He produced 80.99 with his fourth throw, but saved his best for the last, clinching the meet record and the gold medal with his fifth attempt of 85.23 metres.

B.A. Ahmed of Qatar took silver with a best attempt of 83.70m while Kang managed 83.29.

"I am not in the best of shape as I had a niggle in my shoulder. I had an MRI test done recently. But I am confident of winning gold at the World Championships next month," Kang told media persons after the event.

Earlier, Burman won the second gold of the day for India with a total of 5942 points in the women's heptathlon.

Meg Hemphill of Japan took silver with 5883 points while India's Purnima Hembram bagged bronze with 5798.

Laxmanan, on the other hand, ran a tactically superb race in the men's 10,000m. He was part of the leading pack throughout the 10,000m final before producing a strong sprint in the final lap of the 25-lap race to leave his rivals far behind.

He registered a time of 29:55.87 while Gopi clocked 29:58.89. Adilet Kyshtakbekov of Kyrgyzstan took bronze with 30:06.65.

This was the second gold medal at this meet for Laxmanan. He had won gold in the men's 5,000m gold as well.

"It was a technical race. I am happy to win a medal. Now the target is the World Championships," Laxmanan said.

In the final of the men's 4x400m relay, the Indians faced a strong challenge from Sri Lanka in the early stages.

Kunju Muhammed, who started off the race for the hosts, could not keep pace with Sri Lanka's T. Dhananjaya and the Indians were in second place behind their fellow South Asians at the first baton exchange.

However, Muhammed Anas, ran a powerful second lap to give India a comfortable lead. Amoj Jacob struggled a bit during the third leg as Sri Lanka's Kalinga Kumarage seemed to make up some of the lost ground.

But Rajiv Arokia produced some scorching pace in the final leg as the Indians won gold with a time of 3:02.92.

The Lankans took silver with 3:04.80 while Thailand clocked 3:06.48 to bag the bronze.

The Indians struggled in the early stages of the women's 4x400m final as well.

Debashree Mazumdar, who ran the first leg, was in fourth spot when she handed over the baton to Jisna Mathew.

Jisna displayed excellent speed to surge into the second spot before M.R. Poovamma did well to take the lead during the third lap.

There was a bit of a fumble when Poovamma was handing over the baton to Nirmala for the final leg. But the latter recovered to run a superb last round as the hosts registered a comfortable win with a time of 3:31.34.

Vietnam were almost two seconds behind at 3:33.22 while Japan got bronze with 3:37.74.

The existing meet record of 3:30.93 is also held by India.

In men's 800m, Johnson fetched a bronze for India with a time of 1:50.07.

R. Alzofari of Kuwait won gold with 1:49.47 while Qatar's Jamal Hairane clocked 1:49.94 to take silver.

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