The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Silver each for Anju, Manjit

Doha: India ’s worst fears have finally come true. On the eve of the Asian Games, it was widely speculated that Kumiko Ikeda of Japan might pip India ’s best bet Anju Bobby George for the gold medal in the long jump event.

It did happen at the Khalifa Stadium on Sunday, but no one expected the world bronze medallist to cave in so easily. The Japanese girl, whose season’s best was 6.86 metres in a domestic event, jumped to 6.81 metres to emerge a runaway winner.

Anju finished a poor second. Her effort of 6.52 metres came only in her sixth and last jump after she was pushed to the third position at the end of the fifth attempt. She started with a jump of 6.36 metres and could improve up to 6.47 metres in the fifth.

The contest, in fact, was over by the fifth jump when Kumiko reached the 6.81 mark. With Anju’s best in the season being 6.53, there was no way she could have overtaken her Japanese rival.

Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova, who beat Soma Biswas for the heptathlon gold medal on Saturday, finished third with 6.49 metres. India’s J. J Sobha ended in the eighth position with 6.13 metres as her best.

Anju later said that she didn’t expect it to be any better. “Of late, I didn’t participate in too many international meets. It reflected in my performance.”

There was some drama in the afternoon when Bengal’s Pinki Pramanik finished a poor fourth in the 400 metres final and then blamed the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) of hatching a conspiracy against her.

In a race where her compatriot Manjit Kaur bagged the silver with a season best timing of 52.17 seconds, Pinki missed a chance to grab at least the bronze when she slowed down in the last 20 metres to be pipped at the post by Asami Tanno of Japan. Olga Tereskova of Kazakhstan was the redoubtable winner as she finished the race in 51.86 seconds. Pinki clocked 53.06 seconds.

“It is a pity that I was not allowed to compete in the 800 metres, my favourite event. I wanted to run it, but coach Nikolai Snesarev (of Belarus) stopped me from competing in this event,” said Pinki. “In the Chennai Open, I didn’t do too well in the 800 metres. Since then they decided to exclude me from the 800 metres.”

Asked why she ran such a poor race in the 400 metres, Pinki said the false start at the beginning was the main cause behind the debacle. “Once I had the false start, I was puzzled. On the second occasion, I also had a bad start as I feared punishment then. It put me off really.”

Later, the secretary of the AFI, Lalit Bhanot called Pinki ‘a foolish girl’. “That’s a baseless allegation. Moreover, who asked her to slow down at the end and lose the 400 metres medal,” he asked.

For Manjit Kaur, however, it was a dream come true story. “Only two days ago I accidentally poured some hot water on my feet. I thought I will have to pull out of the meet, but I managed to compete in the end,” said Manjit. “I thank both my coach and the national association for supporting me all through.”

Overall, it was a disappointing day for the Indians at the Khalifa Stadium. While Chitra K Suman failed to qualify for the 200 metres final, Vikas Gowda finished sixth in the men’s discus with a throw of 58.28 metres. Hamza Chatholi came seventh in 1,500 metres despite her personal best time of 3.43.69 minutes.

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