Indian athletics is on a roll with Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker taking gold and silver at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham
India has long been described as the “sleeping giant” of athletics. If the country ever tapped into the track and field potential within its 1.38 billion population, it could be a real force.
There were signs that the giant might be stirring last year when Neeraj Chopra won Olympic javelin gold. And this week at the Commonwealth Games the nation had won, as of midday on Sunday (Aug 7), eight medals.
Two of these came in the men’s triple jump on Sunday morning when Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker Narangolintevid finished one-two with another Indian, Praveen Chithravel, fourth.
To add to the excitement, the duo were only separated by one centimetre as well as Paul won with a best jump of 17.03m (3.1).
It was India’s first ever title in this event as Jah-Nhai Perinchief of Bermuda finished third with 16.92m and the first home nations athlete was Ben Williams in eighth with 16.03m after a frustrating series of fouls.
The Indian success followed hot on the heels of Avinash Sable very nearly beating Kenyan Abraham Kibiwott in the 3000m steeplechase the previous day. Plus on Sunday morning there were bronze medal in the men’s 10,000m race walk and women’s javelin, too, from Sandeep Kupar and Annu Rani respectively.
“I came here to record a personal best and I did that, and it automatically earned me gold,” said Paul. “I had confidence, because we were jumping good distances in training and there were good conditions for jumping today.”
On the growing status of athletics as an athletics nation, the winner added: “The sporting culture in India is changing. We are getting more support from the Indian Athletics Federation and Sports Group of India – and that helps athletics in India to grow.”
Dunfee wins race walking gold as Bosworth bows out
After winning Olympic bronze in the 50km event last year, racing over 10,000m on the track at the Alexander Stadium must have felt like a sprint to Evan Dunfee of Canada.
The 31-year-old clocked 38:36.37 (imagine trying to run, let alone walk, two back-to-back 5kms in 19:18) as he beat Declan Tingay of Australia by six seconds with Sandeep Kumar of India a further seven seconds back in third.
In fourth, Callum Wilkinson was close to his UK record of 39:05.85 with 39:06.28, while Tom Bosworth bowed out from international athletics by finishing seventh in 40:58.64.
“Those were tough conditions out here,” said Wilkinson, as the thermometer hit 27C in the stadium. “It was warmer than I expected. I didn’t expect this in Birmingham.
“I was only a second outside my own British record after having had knee surgery in February. I only began my winter’s training in April. So to make this kind of progress is miraculous.”
Bosworth has helped get race walking on the map in recent years with his flamboyant racing style. He won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and finished sixth in the Olympic 20km in 2016 but injuries have increasingly taken their toll.
“That crowd made it special,” he said. “I got a couple of red cards and didn’t want to get disqualified so I was really careful. I couldn’t have found a better way to go out.”
On Wilkinson, he said: “I was hoping he’d win a medal but that’s the level of Commonwealth walking right now. I hope I’m leaving the event in good hands.”
Barber’s sixth sense for javelin gold
World javelin champion Kelsey-Lee Barber denied fellow Australian Mackenzie Little the gold medal with a last-gasp final round throw of 64.43m.
Little had led from the first round with 64.03m and she improved her lead with a PB of 64.27m in the fourth round but Barber waited until her sixth throw to pass her.
For Barber it came after a bout of Covid which she came down with after the World Championships and before these Commonwealth Games.
Behind the Aussies, Annu Rani added to India’s growing medal haul at these Games with a 60.00m throw.
Barber said: “I had an awesome start and then it just fell away during the competition, but my mentality is every throw is an opportunity to show what I’m capable of. That really grounded me during that final round.”
Little said: “I can only control what I can, so I’m very proud of what I did today.”
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