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India’s harvest of athletics medals swells


Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (R) with gold medallist Neeraj Chopra (C) and silver medal winner Sudha Singh in Jakarta, on Monday. – PTI
 JAKARTA, Aug 27: Farmer’s son Neeraj Chopra harvested another record-smashing gold in javelin throw as India’s track-and-field athletes delivered a clutch of medals at the 18th Asian Games here.

Neeraj’s gold and three other athletics silver medals propelled India’s overall medal count to 41 (8 gold, 13 silver, and 20 bronze).

Considered the biggest star in Indian athletics right now, junior world champion Neeraj delivered on the massive expectations in style, throwing the spear to a brand new personal best of 88.06m and leaving the field behind by quite a distance.

There was plenty of silver to celebrate as well, all of it coming from the athletics arena. Sudha Singh (women’s 300m steeplechase), Neena Varakil (women’s long jump) and Dharun Ayyasamy (men’s 400m hurdles) came second in their respective events.

Ayyasamy clocked 48.96 seconds to shatter his own national record and finish behind Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba who won the gold with a Games record time of 47.66.

“My father passed away when I was eight years old. My mother has made a lot of sacrifices for me. I owe her this. She is still earning just Rs 14,000 per month as a teacher,” said the 21-year-old from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, who is hoping to get a job now.

“I just wanted to run my race. I did not give importance to others. My pace in the first half was not very different to the pace in second half. Really happy to better my national record,” said Dharun, who had clocked a then Personal Best of 49.45 in the Federation Cup in March earlier this year.

He trained for six months before the Asian Games in Poland and Czech Republic.

“That helped a lot,” said Dharun, who is a second year college student.

Varakil’s best jump of 6.51m came in the fourth attempt, which was enough to fetch her the silver.

Veteran Sudha clocked 9:40.03 seconds to win her second Asian Games medal after the 2010 Guangzhou edition gold in the same event.

“I gave my personal best time in Incheon but that was not good enough for a medal. So it did not mean much,” said the 32-year-old from Amethi.

But the man of the moment was Neeraj, the son of a farmer from Panipat who has caught the nation’s imagination with his exploits.

The 20-year-old, who claimed a gold at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, had managed a gold medal throw from his very first attempt today – an effort of 83.46m effort.

In the end, he was only competing against himself and he made sure that he gave the best account of himself.

Liu Qizhen of China was second with a best throw of 82.22m while Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem won the bronze with a 80.75 effort.

Chopra’s biggest rival was expected to be Chao Tsun Cheng, who last year recorded a throw of 91.36m but the Chinese Taipei thrower could manage a best of 79.81 to finish fifth.

Chopra, the world junior record holder of 86.48, has been in tremendous form this season and has consistently crossed the 85m mark.

He won the Federation Cup in March with 85.94m, clinched a gold in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with a throw of 86.47m, before the 87.43 effort in Doha. Before coming here, he had 85.17 and 85.69 in France and Finland during his preparations for the Asian Games. – PTI

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