The 2019 Asian Athletics Championships was the 23rd edition of the Asian Athletics Championships. It was held from 21 to 24 April 2019 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. There are reasons to be satisfied for India by its achievements in the Asian Athletics Meet 2019 with 17 medals including three gold medals. The total came close to chief coach Bahadur Singh’s prediction of 20 medals. However, it does not compare well with a total of 29 medals including 12 gold, in the 2017 edition of the championships, held at home (Bhubaneswar). This year the top medalist was Bahrain, with its African ‘imports’ with medals tally of 11 gold, one ahead of China’s 10 golds. Notably, in 2017 Bahrain was absent in Bhubaneswar.
Medals tally Top ten Performers at Doha, Qatar
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India’s Performance in 23rd Asian Athletic Championship
India claimed 17 medals in all to end at fourth position on the medals’ table in the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha. In the last edition of the competition being held at home in Bhubaneswar in 2017, had won 29 medals (12 Gold, 5 silver, 12 bronze) thereby topping the medal tally for the first time.This time, Bahrain topped the tally with 11 gold, 7 silver and 4 bronze, followed by China (10 gold, 13 silver, 7 bronze), Japan (5 gold, 4 silver, 9 bronze) and India. This was the second time since 1983 that powerhouse China has been pushed to the second spot. India did that in 2017 while Bahrain did the same this time. This time India won three gold, seven silver and seven bronze.
Gold medals for India
- Gomathi Marimuthu brought India’s first gold winning the women’s 800m gold clocking a personal best of 2:02.70 seconds
- Tejinder Pal Singh Toor won gold medal on the second day in men’s shot put event.
- PU Chithra struck gold in the women’s 1500m on the last day of the competition.
The names of Indian players who won silver medals are as follows:
- Annu Rani- women’s javelin throw with a throw of 60.22m
- Avinash Sable: Steeple chaser
- Swapna Barman: heptathlete
- The 4x400m mixed relay team
- The women’s 4x400m relay quartet of Prachi, Poovamma, Saritaben Gayakwad and VK Vismaya finished second with a time of 3:32.21, behind the Bahraini quartet who clocked 3:32.10s.
- The men’s 4x400m relay team of Kunhu Mohd, KS Jeevan, Muhammed Anas and Arokia Rajiv finished second with time of 3:03.28, behind Japan (3:02.94).
- Ajay Kumar Saroj won a waiting game to take silver in the men’s 1500m. Ajay Kumar Saroj was winner of gold in the 2017 edition
The Indian Bronze medal winners included:
- Parul Chaudhary – Distance runner claimed a bronze medal on the opening day of the meet in the women’s 5000m, slipping past a tiring compatriot Sanjivani Jadhav in the final lap of the grueling race.
- MR Povamma -Quartermiler MR Povamma grabbed bronze medals on the opening day of the meet.
- Sanjivani Jadhav- won a bronze in 10000m race on the third day of the meet
- Sprinter Dutee Chand claimed the 200m bronze to make amends for her fifth place finish in 100m
Miracle Girls and inspiring deeds
A daughter of farmers, for Gomathi, who only began professionally running when she was 20, it’s been ten long years of intense struggle. What stands out through her incredible story is the two qualities all the great athletes in the world share—character and conviction. Despite starting her career a lot later than many elite athletes, Gomathi made it great after offering lot of blood, sweat and tears to the game. Despite having a regular a job at the Income Tax department in Bengaluru under the sports quota, Gomathi managed to take time out to train regularly. Years of intense training helped her reach the final of the 800m event at the Asian Championship in Pune in 2013, where she finished seventh. Two years later, in Wuhan, China, she finished fourth in the same event. Now she has won the gold medal. She won despite facing several personal shocks in recent times. According to her life turned upside down as her mother went into depression after dad passed away. It was tough to get her to do anything. The whole family was dependent on her, and months later, she lost her coach at the national camp to a heart attack.
In a classic comeback, Gomathi emerged from the back of the pack and stormed her way through the home straight to clinch the gold medal in a spectacular fashion with her personal best of 2 minutes 02.70 seconds. After all the trials and tribulations, this was Gomathi’s first major gold medal at an international event. The run at Doha beat her previous best at the Federation Cup at Patiala where she finished with 2:03.21s.
The miracle girl PU Chitra, coached by Sijin N S, gave a very inspiring performance in the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in Doha as the Kerala athlete bagged gold for India in the women’s 1500m race on (April 24, the last day of the Meet). Chitra’s victory was clocked at 4 minutes 14.56 seconds. This win also enabled Chitra to qualify for the upcoming International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in September. During the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar as well, Chitra had won gold. The 24-year-old athlete born on June 9, 1995, at Mundur in Kerala’s Palakkad District, is the third of four children of Unnikrishnan & Vasantha Kumari, both of whom are daily wage labourers who perform menial jobs to make ends meet. Fighting all odds, Chitra won many state, national and international medals in track and field events. Chitra’s life has been marked with severe hardships as sometimes, her parents were unable to find any work and were forced to survive on leftovers. Reportedly, Chitra even had to sleep empty stomachs on many occasions, however, that did not stop her from practising early in the morning at her government school. It is a resounding proof that sincere and hard work pays, no matter what are the constraints.
India finished at a respectable 4th position. The medal tally was slightly less than earlier performances because of some of the star players missing the event. India’s journey to Doha edition of Asian Athletic Championship started with doubts. After the high at the Jakarta Asian Games last year, when the country won 19 medals including seven gold and 10 silver, India’s squad to Doha Asian Athletics Championship started with exclusion of some big names including World No. 4 javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, 800m runner Manjit Singh – both with injuries – and triple jumper Arpinder Singh, who failed to qualify. All of them were gold medalists at the Asian Games.Also missing out due to injury is quarter-miler A. Dharun, who has been on a national record-breaking spree in the hurdles, while other Asiad silver medallists, steeple-chaser Sudha Singh and long jumper Neena Pinto, were nowhere close to their Asian Games form. Tamil Nadu distance runner G. Lakshmanan, the last Asians’ big star in Bhubaneswar with a golden 5000-10,000m double, could not even finish among the medals in last month’s Federation Cup, the Asians’ main qualification meet.
Apart from medal winning performances, there were other encouraging performances by several athletes, not just the medal winners, in Doha. The personal bests by Murli Kumar Gavit (5000m, 1000m), Parul Choudhary (5000m, 3000m steeplechase) and Dutee Chand (100m) were among them. India should now focus on Tokyo and Paris Olympics. After the Jakarta Asian Games, the Athletics Federation of India’s President Adille Sumariwalla had boldly proclaimed that India was an Asian superpower and now needed to focus on the Olympics and the Worlds. With names like Neeraj Chopra, M. Sreeshankar, Tejaswin Shankar and Hima Das, India certainly has athletes who could do well in next year’s Tokyo Olympics and in Paris 2024. Nevertheless, it is still far from expected levels of support that sports should have got in India. The sports infrastructure, the training and nutrition and finally job opportunities for youngsters pursuing games and sports is far from being adequate. India needs to work more and work sincerely in this regard. Increasing budgetary allocation to sports and facilitating schools and colleges to nurture sports talents at early levels would go a long way!