Jyothi Yarraji made history by becoming the first Indian athlete to win the women’s 100m hurdles event at the continental showpiece. Her victory marked India’s first gold medal in a major international event.
Ajay Kumar Saroj displayed exceptional tactical prowess and claimed the gold medal in the men’s 1500m race, while Abdulla Aboobacker, a silver medalist at the Commonwealth Games, secured the gold medal in the men’s triple jump.
India’s performance was remarkable as they won three gold medals out of the ten available on Thursday.
Aishwarya Mishra secured a bronze medal in the women’s 400m final, while Tejaswin Shankar displayed his talent in the grueling men’s decathlon, also winning a bronze.
Both Aishwarya and Tejaswin earned their first international medals at the senior level, competing in their inaugural international event.
Tejaswin had previously won a bronze medal in high jump at the 2022 Commonwealth Games but transitioned to decathlon just last year.
Yarraji’s victory in the 100m hurdles was hard-fought, as she completed the race in 13.09 seconds, narrowly defeating two Japanese runners, Terada Asuka (13.13s) and Aoki Masumi (13.26s), on a rain-soaked track at the Supachalasai Stadium.
Yarraji’s national record stands at 12.82 seconds. She had won gold in the National Inter-State Championships last month in 12.92 seconds but the wet track, after rain lashed the stadium, was not ideal for a fast time.
“I was in very good shape and I thought today would be my day and I would be able to do my personal best. But suddenly rain came down and because of that my timing was not that good,” Yarraji rued.
“I was leading at the fifth hurdle, the sixth one was good, but I slipped a bit in the seventh hurdles. That also was the reason for my timing not going below 13 seconds,” she said in a post-race virtual interaction.
In the men’s 1500m, the 26-year-old Saroj ran a brilliantly executed race as he came out of nowhere in the final bend to go past two opponents and win the gold.
He clocked 3:41.51 seconds, two and half seconds outside his personal best of 3:39.19 which he had recorded last month in an event in the USA.
It was the third medal on the trot and second gold for Saroj, who had trained in the USA in May, in the Asian Athletics Championships. He had won gold in the 2017 edition in Bhubaneswar and silver in 2019 in Doha.
Saroj said he knew there were two or three tough competitors and his strategy was to follow them before making the final kick at the last stretch.
“Because of my training in the USA (Colorado Springs) earlier this year (under Scott Simmons), I have come here with confidence. There was a Qatari runner and two Japanese runners who can run in the range of 3:37 and 3:38.
“So, my strategy was to follow them till just before the end. I preserved myself and was able to make the final kick in the final stretch. My aim was to win the gold and not much on timing,” he said.
“Now I will train hard and I think I can do 3:36 or 3:34.”
For Aboobacker, it was his season’s best effort of 16.92m that fetched him the gold, ahead of Ikehata Hikaru (16.73m) of Japan and Jangwoo Kim (16.59m) of Korea.
The 27-year-old began with a foul but cleared 16.92m in his fourth attempt for the gold.
“Because of the rain, the (jumping) board was moving. Still I was confident of doing well and I was able to do that finally,” said Aboobacker, who has a personal best of 17.19m.
Aishwarya said she made a mistake of exerting more than necessary in the initial part of her race and she was left with little energy in the final stretch.
“This is my first international event and so I made the mistake. The rhythm was also lacking but I will learn with experience,” she said.
Tejaswin accumulated 7527 points from the 10 events he competed over two days, which is less than the 7576 he had totalled while winning gold in the National Inter-State Championships last month.
“I need further improvement in shot put, pole vault, discus throw and javelin. But I need more competition and more exposure. I am in the decathlon for just one year while my competitors here have been doing it for years,” he said.
On Wednesday, Abhishek Pal opened India’s medal account with a bronze in the men’s 10,000m race.
(With PTI inputs)