The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Athletes off blocks with Anju’s gold
- Heptathletes Soma and Shobha tied second

Busan: The red flag went up after her sixth and final jump but Anju Bobby George couldn’t care less.

As a larger than life Anju looked down from the mega screen at the Asiad Main Stadium, she could be seen waving and blowing kisses to the Indian section of the crowd where coach and husband Robert Bobby George was trembling with excitement. Anju knew she had already sealed the Asian Games long jump gold.

It was a smooth ride for the lissom lass from Kerala, despite three fouls. Her first jump of 6.45 metres stood tall till Japanese Maho Hanaoka (6.47) bettered it on her final attempt. In between, Anju did a 6.53 to put the issue beyond doubt.

Though the jump was well below her personal best of 6.70, this is not the time to harp on such an issue. The important thing is, her maiden international-level gold got India off to a roaring start in athletics.

The two heptathletes too had a satisfying opening day. Soma Biswas and J.J. Shobha are tied at second place with a tally of 3387 points after four events (100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m). They trail Chinese Shen Shengfei by 97 points.

Both Indians logged high marks in the hurdles and 200. In the 200m, Soma and Shobha did well to clock 24.43secs and 24.03, respectively, reducing Shen’s lead substantially.

Sunday’s clouds had disappeared and there was a chill in the morning air. “It was quite cold and it took me some time to settle down,” said Soma. “I should have done better in shot put.” Soma threw 12.02 metres to earn 662 points, her lowest return of the day.

Coach Kuntal Roy was satisfied with Soma’s results. “It’s good she has done much better than at the ATF championship last month. In Colombo she put up one of her worst performances and I was a little worried. Now, anything is possible,” said Roy before taking his ward to a doctor to attend on a blister on her right foot.

Gurmeet Kaur, the oldest of the seven-woman javelin field, at 32, finished just outside the medal standings. She managed no more than 54.78 metres on Monday, well short of what she is capable of.

Young Sun-lee gave the hosts their first athletics gold with 58.87, fighting off a strong Chinese challenge. Li Li Liang (58.77) took silver and Xiaoyan Ha (58.29) the bronze.

Gulab Chand pulled out of the 10,000m midway with cramps. Saudi Arabia’s Makhid Al Otaibi was the surprise winner as he produced a quick burst in the final 100 metres of the gruelling event to win in 28 minutes, 41.89 seconds.

Qatar’s Ibrahim Ahmed Hashim, who led for the better part of the second half, came in second at 28:43.53 while Bahrain’s Abdul Haq Zakaria (28:46.11) took bronze.

The Games’ first athletics gold went to Kazakhstan’s Valeriy Borissov. The 36-year-old Sergei Bubka lookalike completed the men’s 20km walk in an hour and 24.20 minutes. Chinese Chaohong Yu earned silver (1:24.23) and Japanese Satoshi Yanagisawa (1:25.33) the bronze.

The Chinese made amends in the women’s 20km walk. Qingping Wang (1:33.40) and Kelian Gao (1:33.59) made it a 1-2 for them, with Kazakh Svetlana Tolstoya (1:35.03) finishing a distant third.

K.M. Beenamol and Madhuri Saxena didn’t have to raise much sweat in qualifying for the women’s 800 final. Beenamol, the favourite, won the first semi-final in a relaxed time of 2:08.74. Madhuri too finished first in her race, clocking 2:08.65.

Two more Indians made a move forward. Men for a change. P. Ramachandran advanced to the 400 semi-finals with an effort of 46.79 seconds, coming in behind Sri Lankan Rohan Handunpurage. Paramjeet Singh also made the cut, but only just. A shadow of his 1997 self when he erased Milkha Singh’s 37-year-old national record, Paramjeet squeezed into fourth place in the third heat with a poor time of 47.58.

Saraswati Saha will go into the first of her two battles with Susanthika Jayasinghe on Tuesday. With just 19 entries coming in for the 100m, the first round heats were scrapped.

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