JAKARTA: The Indian athletics contingent ended its Asian Games campaign with a best ever show since 1978 with Jinson Johnson and the women’s 4x400 relay team providing a golden touch on the last day of the athletics competitions yesterday.
The two gold, a silver from 4x400m men’s relay team and a bronze each from discus thrower Seema Punia and 1,500m runner P U Chitra took India’s medal tally from athletics to 19 (7 gold, 10 silver, two bronze).
The gold count was one less than in 1978 but India had won a total of 18 medals then as against 19 this time.
In the inaugural edition in 1951 held in New Delhi, India had won more than 30 medals from athletics, including 10 gold. In 1982, India had won 20 medals in athletics but there were only four gold.
India finished third in athletics behind China (12, 12, 9) and Bahrain (12, 6, 7).
India won five medals on the final day with Johnson winning the gold in the men’s 1,500m to make amends for the silver in the 800m before the women’s team narrowly missed the Games record in their comfortable victory in 4x400m relay.
Kerala athlete Johnson won the country’s first 1,500m gold in 20 years while the women’s 4x400m relay team maintained its Asian Games domination by winning its fifth consecutive gold.
Johnson was pipped by compatriot Manjit Singh for gold in the 800m race but today he did not give any chance to his rivals to win the race in 3 minute 44.72 seconds.
He crossed the finishing line after creating a huge opening in the last 80m stretch, leaving behind Iran’s Amir Moradi (3:45.62) and Bahrain’s Mohammed Tiouali (3:45.88).
Manjit Singh, who emerged a surprise winner in the 800m run, finished fourth with a timing of 3:46.57.
Bahadur Prasad was the last Indian to win a medal in men’s 1500m at the 1998 Games, where he won a bronze.
“Yes, it was a sweet revenge for me because these Games come after four years. My weak point is finishing but today I kept energy for the last 80m run,” Johnson said.
Young sprinter Hima Das won her second Asian Games medal, and this time a gold, as the Indian women’s quartet of Hima, M R Poovamma, Sarita Gayakwad and V K Bismaya faced no competition as they easily took the gold.
The individual 400m silver winner Hima, who began first, provided a handsome lead to Poovamma, who maintained it and passed on the baton to Sarita.
The Gujarati girl too remained strong in her lap and Vismaya comfortably finished the race.
However, the Indian team missed out on the Games record of 3:28.68 as they clocked 3:28.72.
“The strategy was to let two experienced runners begin it. We just wanted to beat Bahrain. That was the goal today,” said Poovamma.
Meanwhile, discus thrower Seema Punia and middle-distance runner P U Chitra had to be content with bronze medals.
Seema could not defend the gold she won in 2014 as China’s Asian champion Chen Yang hurled the disc to gold winning distance of 65.12 in her last attempt, which was a huge 2.86m more than the Indian.
Seema’s best throw came in her third attempt when she sent the disc to 62.26m, which was better than her gold-winning effort at the 2014 Incheon