Asian Games: Indian men’s relay team sizzles on final night of athletics - Hindustan Times
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Asian Games: Indian men’s relay team sizzles on final night of athletics

By, Hangzhou
Oct 05, 2023 12:42 AM IST

The relay team victory helped sign off on a grand note after the day started with bronze in the 35km mixed team race walk

Relay races are as much about harmony and kinship as they are about running efficiency. For Muhammed Anas, Amoj Jacob, Muhammed Ajmal and Rajesh Ramesh, the 4X400m relay race was a nod to history as much as the present, recalling the achievement of a bygone generation on a breezy evening in Hangzhou on Wednesday.

Rajesh Ramesh, Muhammed Ajmal Variyathodi, Amoj Jacob and Muhammed Anas Yahiya wave the national flag after securing gold medal in the Men's 4X400m Relay Final at the 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou(PTI)
Rajesh Ramesh, Muhammed Ajmal Variyathodi, Amoj Jacob and Muhammed Anas Yahiya wave the national flag after securing gold medal in the Men's 4X400m Relay Final at the 19th Asian Games, in Hangzhou(PTI)

Those who watched the quartet run a stunning 2 minutes, 59.05 seconds and then 2:59.92 on consecutive evenings at the Budapest World Championships in August to finish fifth with an Asian record expected them to do well in Hangzhou. But even the most optimistic would have their fingers crossed as the last time India won the 4X400m relay was in 1962 Jakarta Asian Games when Daljit Singh, Jagdish Singh, Makhan Singh and Milkha Singh clocked a then Games record 3:10.20.

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On Wednesday, all it took was 3:01.58 for the Indians to blaze through a competitive field where three of the six starters ran their national record times while two did their season's best. The Asian record holders were almost a second behind their best time but still crossed the finish comfortably ahead. Qatar (3:02.05) and Sri Lanka (3:02.55) took silver and bronze.

India didn’t particularly make a strong start with the experienced quartermiler Muhammed Anas coming fifth in the opening lap. What followed was stunning acceleration from Amoj Jacob handed the baton in the lead which Muhammed Ajmal and Rajesh Ramesh never squandered.

“We tried for a new national record but an Asian Games gold without a record is also fine. A record without gold will not feel good. We were confident coming into the race after setting the Asian record but we also know that anything can happen in a race. Our aim is fulfilled for this season, now let’s focus on the Olympics,” Jacob said.

As the relay quartet basked in glory, they were joined by Neeraj Chopra and Kishore Jena, the javelin gold and silver medallists. The six hugged before posing with the Indian national flag.

“It was such a lovely moment. We thoroughly enjoyed celebrating their success. We could see the Indian tri-colour everywhere which, in a foreign land, felt all the more special,” Chopra, who won gold in Budapest where the relay team came fifth, said.

The women's relay quartet won silver with a time 3:27.85m.

Avinash Sable, who won the 3000m steeplechase, carried the form to 5000m, finishing second at 13 minutes 21.09 seconds. Bahrain's Birhanu Balew won with a Games record of 13:17.40. The top three came under the previous Games mark of 13:26.13m.

Sable, who holds the 5000m national record as well, cited a lack of experience in the event as a reasons for not being able to win. “The goal, of course, was the gold. There was good competition for first place, but I never gave up and kept trying. Maybe I didn't have enough experience for this race. I have not participated in as many 5000m competitions at the national level as I have internationally,” he said.

The Asian Games helps Sable sign off an otherwise below-par season on a high note. He vowed to come back stronger next year. “I don't think I have cried as much as I have this year. I had worked really hard, I didn't think I would lose at the world level like I did (didn't qualify for the men's 3000m steeplechase final at the World Championships),” he said.

In the women's 800m, Harmilan Bains won silver (2:03.75), having come second in 1500m

As well. She emulated her mother Madhuri Saxena, who won silver in the 800m at the 2002 Busan Asiad.

The day began with Ram Baboo, who has worked as a labourer under the MNREGA scheme, as a waiter in Varanasi as well as packing hand in a courier company, joined

Manju Rani to win bronze in the 35km mixed team race walk. It ended with the relay gold as India's athletics tally at this Asian Games went to 29 (6 gold, 14 silver, 9 bronze), well above the previous best of 20 medals won in Jakarta 2018.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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