New Delhi: A long 52-year wait came to an end as India’s national anthem was once again played in the Commonwealth Games athletics arena with woman discus thrower Krishna Poonia winning the gold. The hosts made a clean sweep of medals in the event – their first such feat in any sport at the Games.
Celebrations erupted at the majestic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here as Poonia ensured a top podium finish by hurling the discus to a distance of 61.51 metres. Her team-mate Harwant Kaur took the silver with a 60.16 m throw and Seema Antil completed a 1-2-3 by grabbing the bronze, courtesy a 58.46 metre effort.
The last time such a feat was achieved in track and field was 37 years ago by the Indian men’s trio of shot putters Jugraj Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Bahadur Singh Chouhan at the Asian Championships at Manila.
It was a memorable evening for around 35,000 spectators at the stadium, as the air reverberated with the notes of “Jana Gana Mana” played at the Games athletics event for the first time since ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh’s golden run in the 400 metres at Cardiff in 1958.
The entire stadium, security personnel and Indian journalists included, lent their voice to the anthem, a short while after the trio took a victory lap wrapped in the tricolour to deafening all-round applause.
After having brought the country only its second gold in Commonwealth Games athletics and etching her name in Games history as the first Indian woman yellow metal winner from the discipline, an ecstatic Krishna said: “I can’t express my happiness at the support I see all around. I enjoyed it and I thank all the people who came to support me.”
The 28-year-old, who hails from Gagarwas village in Churu district of Rajasthan, ensured her victory with the first throw. Though, thereafter, she had three foul throws, and covered lesser distances with the other two attempts, Poonia’s first effort enabled her to stay clear of the field.
Punjab girl Harwant, about two years senior to Krishna, got the silver medal winning throw in her third attempt.
“I didn’t do my best but I am happy to win a silver,” she told media persons soon after her success.
It was also a historic day for Antil, who became the first Indian athlete to win medals in back-to-back Commonwealth Games after her silver winning effort at Melbourne four years ago.
The 27-year-old girl from Haryana’s Sonepat said she was extremely happy, though her performance was below par. ‘It was the crowd which won the medal for us.’
However, there was heartbreak in the women’s 800 m race, as medal prospect Tintu Luka finished sixth with a poor timing of 2:01.25 seconds
Luka, a prodigy of legendary Indian athlete P.T. Usha, was ahead of the field till the 600m, when she was overtaken by eventual gold winner Nancy Jebet Langat of Kenya.
Luka tried hard, but near the home stretch she dropped first to the third place and then fell further behind.
Langat took the gold in 2:00.01 seconds, while the silver and bronze went to Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand (2:00.05 ) and Diane Cummins of Canada (2:00.13) respectively.
Luka could have won the gold had she even repeated her personal best timing of 1:59.17, which she has achieved several times this year.
The race over, poignant scenes were witnessed as Usha burst into tears, and was uncontrollable.
Later, the Payoli Express told IANS: “She started off so well. She has had even faster starts earlier and completed the race with better timing. But it was her inexperience that made her nervous as she approached the home stretch. And she literally seemed to have given up from then onward.”
“But mark my words, she will do well in future big events,” said Usha.
In men’s 4X100 m relay, the quartet of Rahamatulla Mollah, Suresh Sathya, Shameer Mon Naseema and Md Abdul Qureshi won their heat to advance to the final with a national record timing of 39 seconds.