Doha: On Tuesday morning, a desperate secretary of the Athletics Federation of India, Lalit Bhanot, visited the athletes’ village to meet the relay quartet. “We need at least one gold in athletics,” he told the girls. “I know, only you can give India the only athletics gold here.”
The girls didn’t disappoint.
In the afternoon, the quartet — Satti Geetha, Pinki Pramanik, Chitra K. Soman and Manjit Kaur — ran an outstanding race to give India their first gold medal at the Khalifa Stadium tracks that had hundreds of Indian flags flying in the stands.
It was truly an emotional moment after the anchor girl, Manjit, gave India a runaway victory leaving her Kazakhstan and Chinese rivals far behind.
For Chitra, there was some pain laced with pleasure as the third Chinese runner accidentally stepped on her hand as the Indian lay exhausted on the track. The mishap left Chitra profusely bleeding.
While the Indian supporters broke into an impromptu dance in the stands, the four, wrapped in tricolour, went for a victory lap around the track to celebrate India’s back-to-back gold medal in this event in the Asian Games. While other three girls cried with joy, all Manjit could say was: “We are very happy. We knew we would win this race.”
Few had doubts about India ’s victory in this category, though the time of 3:32.95 might not make them happy. This team has done better in the season.
But the fact remains that the four ran the race of their life. Once Geetha fell short of the first position behind her Kazak rival, it was Pinki’s turn to repair the damage. She did it with an excellent run and managed to reduce the gap, but that was not enough to dislodge the Kazaks from the first place.
Chitra then took over the baton and proved to be faster than all others. From 200m onwards, she earned the lead though there was a chance of her being overtaken.
But once it came to Manjit for the last lap, the silver-medallist in the 400m displayed splendid form. So huge was the gap between Manjit and her rival in the last 30m that the Punjab girl could have walked away to the gold medal.
“The triumph in this event has erased all my bad memories,” said Pinki later. “I lost a medal in the 400m, but now I have a feeling that I have won it back. Certainly, it is the most cherishable moment in my life.”
Pinki claimed that in desperation to win the gold, Bhanot had assured her of fulfilling her demand of competing in the 800m also in future.
India won two more medals in the track event on Tuesday. While the men’s relay team, comprising Abu Backer, Joseph Abraham, Bhupinder Singh and KM Beenu, won the men’s 4x400 relay silver, Sinimole Paulose bagged a bronze in the 1,500metres for men.
The gold in the men’s relay event went to the Saudi Arabian quartet, who clocked its season’s best time of 3:05.31, followed by India (3:06.65).