Asian Games: India slips in gold, while improving total medals in athletics
Indian track and field athletes performed on expected lines with a creditable haul of 13 medals though lacking in gold count while a few big names bit the dust in the Asian Games here.
Incheon: Indian track and field athletes performed on expected lines with a creditable haul of 13 medals though lacking in gold count while a few big names bit the dust in the Asian Games here.
Four years ago in Guangzhou, India bagged 12 medals in athletics made up of 5 gold, 2 silver and 5 bronze while the the 17th edition of the Games here saw the team bag 2 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze medals.
The fewer number of gold medals this time was on expected lines as Indian athletes had gone to Incheon with very few Asian leaders in the blue-riband event. There were only three events in which the Indians were the season leaders.
Seema Punia, left out of the last two Games for different reasons, proved a point here by clinching the gold medal in the women's discus throw.
The other gold medal was captured by the women's 4x400m relay team of Priyanka Panwar, Tintu Luka, Mandeep Kaur and M R Poovamma which also bettered the previous Games record in the name of the gold-winning Indian quartet in the 2010 edition.
The silver count increased by two this time after the upgradation of Manju Bala's medal to silver in women's hammer throw after a Chinese who finished ahead of her was caught for doping while the bronze tally too swelled by two from last time.
Manju, Naveen Kumar (men's 3000m steeplechase), Rajiv Arokia (men's 400m), Inderjeet Singh (men's shot put) and Annu Rani (women's javelin throw) gave India unexpected medals while the biggest disappointment was triple jumper Arpinder Singh.
National record holder Arpinder Singh had come here as season leader but did not live upto the pre-Games billing and finished a disappointing fifth while the much-touted Gowda slipped in his bid to capture the gold in the men's discus throw after winning gold at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Renjith Maheshwary (men's triple jump), Mayookha Johny (women's triple and long jump) and Om Prakash Karhana (men's shot put) were cleared for the Games at eleventh hour after undergoing selection trials and the trio flopped miserably, a development which may invite criticism of Athletics Federation of India for sending them at all.
There were others like low hurdlers Ashwini Akkunji and Joseph Abraham who came nowhere close to their best and ended up without successfully defending the titles won four years ago.
Apart from Luka, Gowda and Manju, the other silver medallist was Khusbir Kaur who became the first medal winner in women's walk races and also set a personal and national record in women's 20-km walk.
Among the bronze medallists were Arokia Rajiv (men's 400m), Naveen Kumar (men's 3000m steeplechase), Inderjeet Singh (men's shot put), M R Poovamma (women's 400m), O P Jaisha (women's 1500m), Lalita Babar (women's 3000m steeplechase) and Annu Rani (women's javelin throw).
Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla, who is also donning the hat of the Indian contingent's chef-de-mission here, said he had mixed feelings about India's performance at the track and field events.
"We thought we would get 12 medals overall, but got 13 in all. I thought we should have got at least one more gold from among Vikas Gowda and Arpinder. But the satisfactory thing is most of our athletes have done their career best or season's best. I must say I was very disappointed about Om Prakash Singh (men's shot put), Ranjith Maheshwary (men's triple jump) and Sahani Kumari (women's high jump)," said the former national sprint champion.
Sumariwalla also pointed out the lack of foreign exposure or international meets at home as one of the reasons for the slight dip in performance.
"For the last one year there have been no international competitions or foreign exposure for our athletes. What do you expect?" he asked.
He also said that there was a delay in the appointment of coaches too.
"There was a delay in appointment of two coaches and recovery expert. (Middle and long distance coach) Nikolai came just three months ago and got you two medals out of nothing," he said.
"We always believed we would do better than the previous edition's performance. We got one more medal but the number of gold decreased," he summed up.