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October 10, 2002 | 1202 IST

Neelam Singh, Sunita Rani, Saraswati Saha win gold

Ken Ferris

India's success in women's track and field continued at the Asian Games on Thursday as they won the 200 and 1500 metres events in style and added the discus gold to their success in the 800 metres and the long jump.

 (c) REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Saraswati Saha won the 200 after the withdrawal through injury of pre-race favourite Sri Lankan golden girl Susanthika Jayasinghe, the Olympic bronze medallist who was aiming for another sprint double here after winning the 100 on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old, who had won both sprints before her adoring home fans at the Asian championships in Colombo in August, felt a twinge in her hamstring in the warm-up and decided to pull out.

India's athletes have been given the incentive of a $40,000 win bonus by the government and Saha quickly took her opportunity in Jayasinghe's absence by winning in 23.28 seconds ahead of Ni Xiaoli of China and Viktoriya Kovyreva of Kazakhstan.

"If Susanthika had been there I would have fought even harder but I think I still would have won," said Saha.

"Her [Susanthika's] best time is 22.81, mine is 22.82, so it's not fair to say that she would have won hands down."

She added: "I just can't believe that I won the gold. It is simply out of the world, and now I am feeling on top of the world."

Sunita Rani won India's second track gold of the day when she destroyed the field to take the 1500 metres title in a Games record of four minutes 6.03 seconds, over 2- seconds faster than her season's best.


 (c) REUTERS/Bobby Yip
The victory completed Rani's triumphant return from injury after she was forced out for two years with a stress fracture.

The Indian took the lead on the first lap and opened a sizeable gap on Kyrgyzstan's Tatiana Borisova, who also broke from the pack and battled valiantly before settling for silver. Japan's Yoshiko Ichikawa won bronze.

The other Indian in the fray in the 1500 metres, Madhuri Singh finished fourth, clocking 4:14:78 seconds.

India also struck gold in the women's discus on Thursday as Neelam Jaswant Singh shook off her reputation of performing well at home but not on the international stage. She won the event with her second throw of 64.55 metres, a Games record.

The Chinese duo of Song Aimin and Ma Shuli, favourites for the title, had to settle for silver and bronze respectively.

Harwant Kaur, another Indian in the fray, finished fourth in the event with an effort of 58.31 metres.

India's other field gold was secured on Monday when Anju Bobby George broke China's domination of women's long jump since 1974 with a leap of 6.53 metres to win gold.

India's smooth-running K.M. Beenamol, who strolled to victory in the 800 on Tuesday, failed to capture a double as she was beaten into second place in the 400 by Damayanthi Darsha of Sri Lanka in a Games record of 51.14 seconds.

Beenamol had overcome Darsha in an Asian Grand Prix meeting at the start of the season, but she did not get a good start on Thursday and was never really in contention for another gold as the Sri Lankan favourite showed all her class to win comfortably.

Darsha had returned to form following a hamstring injury that restricted her at this year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester and forced her to skip the individual events in Colombo.

Beenamol's second-place finish meant she failed to emulate compatriots Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, who won the 800-1500 double in Bangkok four years ago, and P.T. Usha, who took three individual golds at the 1986 Asiad.

India's Jincy Philips finished fourth in the race with a time of 53.13 seconds.

In the 100 metres women's hurdles, India's Anuradha Biswal finished fourth, clocking 12.46 seconds. China's Yun Feng won the gold, clocking 12.96s. Her compatriot Yiping Su claimed silver in 13.01 seconds and Thailand's Triscia Roberts finished third in 13.07 seconds.



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