Avinash Sable becomes first Indian man to win Asian Games 3000m steeplechase gold
Avinash Sable became the first Indian man to win 3000m steeplechase gold at Asian Games while shot-putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor pulled off a big final round throw to defend his title on a medal-laden day which fetched nine podium finishes.
India in fact won 15 medals across sports on the day, their biggest haul in a single day of the Asian Games over all editions and athletics was the biggest contributor in that.
India picked up 2 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze on the day which was marred by controversy in the women's 100m hurdles final.
Jyothi Yarraji, along with Chinese runner Wu Yanni, was disqualified for false start but the judges later allowed the race to be run.
Lin Yuwei of China won the race with a time of 12.74 seconds while Yanni (12.91) and Yarraji (13.04) were second and third respectively.
But the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) immediately filed a protest and within minutes, Yanni was disqualified under Technical Rule 16.8 and Yarraji's bronze was upgraded to silver.
According to Technical Rule 16.8, any athlete responsible for a false start shall be disqualified by the starter.
But, a note to the rule says "when one or more athletes make a false start, others are inclined to follow and ... any athlete who does so has also made a false start. The starter should warn or disqualify only such athlete or athletes who, in their opinion, were responsible for the false start."
AFI senior vice president and legendary long jumper Anju Bobby George termed it as an "unbelievable drama" rarely seen in a major competition.
AFI president and World Athletics Vice President and Executive Board member Adille Sumariwalla said the matter would be taken up at the higher level "so that these kinds of things do not happen in future".
'Toor' de force
Before the controversy struck, Toor made a remarkable comeback after opening with two foul throws and trailing at third at the end of the third round. He jumped to second with his 20.06m fourth round throw but had a foul throw next to be on the verge of losing the gold to Saudi Arabia's Mohamed Daouda Tolo.
But, the Asian record holder Toor saved the best for the last as hurled the iron ball to 20.36m to nail the gold.
Toor thus became the fourth Indian shot putter to defend Asian Games gold after Parduman Singh Brar (1954 and 1958), Joginder Singh (1966 and 1970) and Bahadur Singh Chouhan (1978 and 1982).
Sable, the 29-year-old national record holder, earned India its first gold medal in athletics, completing the race in 8 minutes 19.50 seconds.
Sable rewrote the previous Asian Games record of 8:22.79 held in the name of Iran's Hossein Keyhani set at the 2018 Jakarta Games. His timing was, however, well below his national record time of 8:11.20 and season's best of 8:11.63.
Sudha Singh had won a gold in women's 3000m steeplechase in the 2010 Asian Games.
In the 1500m for women, flamboyant Harmilan Bains won a silver with a time of 4 minute 12.74 seconds while Ajay Kumar Saroj (3:38.94) and Jinson Johnson (3:39.74) won silver and bronze respectively in the men's 1500m.
Harmilan joined her mother Madhuri Singh -- the 2002 edition 800m silver winner -- as Asian Games medallist.
Veteran discus thrower Seema Punia won a bronze for her third medal in as many editions of the Asian Games with a throw of 58.62m.
"This is my last Asian Games and I am ending with a medal. I think I will be looking ahead to be able to qualify for the Paris Olympics maybe through ranking," she said.
The 40-year-old Punia won a gold in the 2014 Asian Games and then added a bronze in 2018. She has also won three silver and one bronze in the Commonwealth Games in her over 20-year international career.
In men's long jump, Murali Sreeshankar picked up a silver with a jump of 8.19m, behind Wang Jianan (8.22m) of China, who had won a silver medal in the Budapest World Championships in August.
In the women's heptathlon, Nandini Agasara took the bronze ahead of 2018 gold medallist Swapna Barman after winning the 800m race, the last of the gruelling seven-event competition.
Nandini collected an aggregate of 5712 points while Barman, who finished third in 800m, secured 5708. China's Zheng Ninali won the gold with an aggregate of 6149 points while Voronina Ekaterina of Uzbekistan was second with 6056.
Earlier, India's Amlan Borgohain finished at the third position after clocking 21.08 seconds in the men's 200m heats and advanced to the semifinal.
The first three athletes in each heat make the cut for the semi-finals. The top four times from all the heats who have not made the cut will also advance to the semifinals.
The sprinter from Assam, currently the country's fastest, holds both the men's 100m and 200m national records.