Tintu Luka ended India’s second most successful Asian Athletics Championships on a winning note with gold in the women’s 800m in Wuhan, China, last Sunday (7).
The national record holder claimed her maiden major international title with a season’s best time of 2:01.53secs, ahead of China’s Zhao Jing (2:03.40) and Nimali Klarachchige of Sri Lanka (2:03.94).
Luka won India’s fourth gold of the competition – and their 13th in all – as the nation finished third in the medal table behind China (15 golds, 13 silvers, 13 bron-zes) and Qatar (seven golds, two silvers, one bronze).
It was their best performance in the event since 2007 in Amman, Jordan, where India came second.
Luka, 26, broke her individual major race duck after being part of India’s winning 4x400m relay teams at the 2013 Asian Championships and the 2014 Asian Games.
With the victory, Luka has qualified for August’s World Championship in Beijing, but has yet to achieve the 2016 Rio Olympic qualifying mark of 2:01.00.
India collected five medals on the final day of action at the Wuhan Sports Centre, completing a total medal haul of four golds, five silvers and four bronzes.
Jinson Johnson (1:49.69) secured silver in the men’s 800m behind Qatar’s defending champion Musaab Bala, while Dharambir Singh and Srabani Nanda bagged a bronze each in the men’s and women’s 200m respectively.
Dharambir (20.66) broke Anil Kumar’s 15-year-old 200m national record of 20.73 during his run. Srabani clocked a 23.54 personal best to guarantee her first major medal.
There was also relay success for Team India on day four; The ladies (3:33.44), failing to defend the title they won two years ago, came second to hosts China.
Inderjeet Singh, 27, kicked off India’s challenge last Wednesday (3) by striking shot put gold. Inderjeet, who claimed 2014 Asian Games bronze and 2013 World University Games silver, set a new championship record of 20.41m in his fourth attempt to take first place.
Lalita Babar and Vikas Gowda then took top spot on the podium on day three. Babar bettered her own 3,000m steeplechase national record to win the gold in 9:34.13.
The 26-year-old took full advantage of pre-tournament favourite’s Ruth Chebet late withdrawal to finish in front of Chinese duo Li Zhenzhu and Zhang Xiyan.
Babar also booked her place alongside Inderjeet in Rio. Her national best surpassed the 9:35.37 she clocked while winning bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Her quest for double gold in the 10,000 a day later ended in disappointment though after she failed to complete the distance.
India’s multiple discus medal winner Gowda added another title to his collection despite a poor display by his high standards. The 31-year-old defended the crown he won in Pune in 2013 thanks to a 62.03m throw.
Kuwaiti Eisa Zankawi (61.57m) and Iranian Mahmoud Samimi (59.78m) were the other medalists.Asian record-holder Ehsan Hadadi failed to register a legal throw.
G Lakshmanan was the only Indian to win more than one solo medal. The 25-year-old distance runner took bronze on day one in the 5,000m before following that up with a superb 10,000m silver two days later.
Lakshmanan (13:36.62) shattered his PB by almost 14 seconds in the 5,000m and was runner-up to Bahrain’s Asian Games champ El Hassan El Abbasi in 29:42.81 in the 10k.
Quarter-miler Machettira Raju Poovamma and heptathlete Liksy Joseph both collected silver last Thursday (4).
Poovamma, who also came second in 2013, clocked 53.07 in the women’s 400m finals to finish second behind China’s Yang Huizhen (52.37) and Anastasiya Kudinova (53.41) of Kazakhstan.
Joseph won the 800m race in her final event of seven to set a new points total best of 5,554. Teammate and ex-Asian junior champion Purnima Hembram was third (5,511pts).
Completing a fine tournament for the Indians was the women’s sprint relay quartet, who finished third in 44.73.