Avinash Sable left from start to finish, Tajinderpal Singh Toor clinched with a massive throw in the final attempt and Jyothi Yarraji bagged silver after being illegally disqualified along with a Chinese competitor by the race officials on what was a dramatic day for India in the Asian Games athletics competitions on which the country showed its rising might by bagging nine medals in a single day, here on Sunday.
Despite the attempts by the Chinese officials to get their runner Wu Yanni back into the race despite her making a false start, the Indian girls raced under protest and finished third. In their eagerness to favour the local competitor, the race officials also allowed Wu Yanni to run the race and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) lodged an official protest at Wu Yanni’s presence in the race despite being disqualified. The Chinese officials eventually ruled against the Chinese athlete and Jyothi eventually got the silver medal.
“In my entire life as an athlete, I have never seen such a thing — officials first disqualify an athlete and then bring her back. They tried to throw Jyothi out but she did not make any false start, her hands were touching the track when the Chinese runner was already a step and a half ahead. We lodged a protest immediately,” said Anju Bobby George, senior Vice-President of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).
Jyothi, who demonstrated with the race officials and tried to prove to them that she did not make a false start, said she was sure she did not make a false start.
“I don’t know much about the rules but I was clear, I did not make a false start,” Jyothi told the media later in the mixed zone.
“Sometimes it is important that you stand up for your rights, I was sure that I did not make a false start and therefore fought for myself,” said Jyothi in a press conference after the medal ceremony.
Jyothi clocked 12.91 to finish behind LIn Yuwei of China, who clocked her personal best of 12.71 to take the gold medal. Jyothi bagged silver in 12.91 while Japan’s Yum Tanaka was upgraded to the bronze medal in 13.04 after she had finished fourth in the race. Wu Yanni was eventually shown as disqualified in the official results.
While the spotlight suddenly turned onto the 100m hurdles and Jyothi, India came up with a solid performance on the day in track and field claiming two gold, four silver and three bronze medals for a rich haul of nine medals in Hangzhou Olympic Complex Stadium.
While Sable and Toor grabbed the gold medals on Sunday, the silver medals were bagged by Harmilan Bains in Women’s 1500m, Ajay Kumar Saroj in Men’s 1500m race, Murali Sreeshankar in Men’s long jump and Jyothi in women’s 100m hurdles. Jinson Johnson in Men’s 1500m, Seema Punia in women’s discus throw and Nandini Agasara in women’s Heptathlon.
While the Jyothi incident hogged the limelight, Sreeshankar won his first medal in the Asian Games by crossing the 8m mark for the first time on foreign soil. He crossed the mark thrice before finishing second with 8.19m. It was a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for Sreeshankar following a dramatic collapse in the Tokyo Olympics. Early this year, he also failed to make the final of the World Cup.
“I am very happy, everything went well though I started with a foul, which I normally don’t do, things went well for me. I am very happy to win my first medal in the Asian Games. It was a challenging year for me as I struggled with a couple of injuries, My father managed them well and I could end this long season with crossing 8 metres on foreign soil for the first time,” said Sreeshankar, who later put the medal around the neck of his father, a former triple jumper who is also his coach.
It was Sable, who started the medal rush for India by winning the gold in an Asian Games Record time of 8:19.50 in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase, becoming the first Indian ever to win a gold medal in this discipline in the Asian Games. Sable won by a big margin even though he came nowhere close to his personal best of 8:11.20, but the 29-year-old was happy to win his first gold medal in a major event, leading from start to finish.
Toor bagged the second gold of the day when he clinched the gold medal with his final throw of the competition hurling the iron ball to 20.36 metres. Toor, who fouled his first two attempts sprung into action with 19.51 in his third attempt and in his next turn, he crossed the 20-metre mark.
However, Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed Daouda A Tolo took the lead by this time by throwing to a distance of 20.18.
Toor, who holds the Asian Games (20.75m) and Asian Record (, fouled his fifth attempt but then came with his best effort of the day when it mattered most, hurling the iron ball to 20.36 metres to claim the gold medal.
There were some setbacks too as Commonwealth Games medalist Jeswin Aldrin could manage a best of 7.78 and finished eighth among 10 participants in the men’s long jump while Swapna Barman missed out on a medal in the women’s Heptathlon by just four points, finishing with 5708 points to Nandini. China was the most successful nation in athletics on Sunday winning four gold medals, one silver and two bronze while Bahrain and Qatar bagged a gold each.