Neeraj Chopra defended his Asian Games title with a season’s best throw of 88.88m, and Kishore Kumar Jena managed a personal best of 87.54m as India completed a one-two in javelin but not before both got the short end of dodgy officiating as India finished the track & field assignments here with a best-ever haul of 29 medals including six on Wednesday – two golds and four silvers – for second spot on the table by numbers.
On the track, the Asian record-holding men’s 4x400m relay team proved its World Championships performance was no fluke, clocking 3:01.58 to take gold ahead of second-placed Qatar. Mohd. Anas Yahiya ran a blistering 43.60s but was still only the fifth fastest in the leadoff before Amoj Jacob outran the competition to give India the lead, which it held on to till the end to finish ahead of Qatar.
“Overall it feels good that we won gold. We tried for a new record, but gold without a record is also fine. A record without gold will not feel as good. After the Asian record, we were confident of doing well but not overconfident because we knew anything could happen in a race. Our aim has been fulfilled for this season, now let’s focus on the Olympics,” Jacob said after the event, making it clear that the Indians had bigger plans ahead.
Avinash Sable added the 5000m silver to his 3000m steeplechase gold in 13:21.09, more than five seconds faster than the previous Games record. Gulveer Singh, bronze medalist in the 10,000m, finished 4th with a personal best of 13:29.93.
But the focus was firmly on Chopra at the far end of the field, and when he let out his trademark roar after the first throw, it was clear he was going for gold. But the mark was never recorded, the officials gave vague reasons which even Chopra admitted made no sense, and he had to re-throw, managing just 82.38m.
He clearly looked unhappy with the entire proceedings but got better in the 2nd throw even as Jena, coming in high on confidence after his 6th-place finish at the World Championships, pushed hard for an 86.77m throw for a personal best and, more importantly, overtaking Chopra on the leaderboard.
It charged the latter to go even better, and he did it in style, managing a massive 88.88m in his 4th throw to seal the top spot. Jena got close, with 87.54m, but it was not enough to unseat Chopra.
“I felt really good when Jena went ahead of me, I hugged him too. But in competition, we also have to push for ourselves. In fact, I think his going ahead only motivated me to do even better. With me and him and DP Manu also, I think Indian javelin will be special at the Paris Olympics also,” Chopra said.
Jena, meanwhile, admitted that his priority was to qualify for the Olympics (85.50m). “My main target was to do my personal best and qualify for the Paris Olympics – both happened, and I also got a medal. Now, I will try to do even better in Paris. I knew he would throw a big one even after I went on top, so I wasn’t surprised,” he smiled.
In high jump, Sarvesh Kushare equalled his season’s best of 2.26m to finish 4th, while Jesse Sandesh was 9th.
Harmilan emulates mother
Harmilan Bains, meanwhile, added an 800m silver to emulate her mother’s 2002 performance and add to the one she won in 1500m. Running with the pack for the first lap, Harmilan pushed ahead in the 2nd, going on the outside track to break past the runners in front of her – a tough feat to achieve – and pushed hard but was unable to overtake Sri Lanka’s Tharushi Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage, who got her country’s first gold medal here.
“I never plan before a race because I know things can change any time, especially in the 800m. It’s not middle-distance but more a sprint race. I really decided to win my place from the 300m mark because there was so much block. My dad taught me that if somebody pushes you, you have to push them back,” she declared. Her mother, Madhuri Singh, had won silver behind compatriot KM Beenamol at the Busan Games. KM Chanda, however, finished a disappointing 7th.
Also finishing second was the women’s 4x400m relay team – champions in the five previous editions – that saw the quartet of Vithya Ramraj, Aishwarya Mishra, Prachi and V. Subha clock 3:27.85, which the official results erroneously cited as a new national record that actually is almost a second faster and set in 2004. It also made Vithya the only triple-medalist Indian athlete.
In the morning, Manju Rani and Ram Baboo combined to win India’s 70th medal in the edition, getting bronze in the 35km race walk.