Chopra goes big for gold as Barshim leaps to Asian Games record

Hangzhou (Agencies): India’s javelin king Neeraj Chopra produced a giant throw to strike gold at the Asian Games on Wednesday and cap a gruelling season, with Olympic high-jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim joining him as a winner.

They were among seven titlists on day six of the track and field in Hangzhou with just the men’s and women’s marathons left on Thursday, concluding an event dominated by hosts China.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Chopra was under pressure after teammate Kishore Kumar Jena produced a huge personal best of 86.77 metres, which he would later improve to 87.54m and eventual silver.

But Chopra responded emphatically with a season-best 88.88m to retain his Asian Games crown in style. It was a massive statement and longer than the 88.17m that won him the world title at Budapest in August and the 87.58m that earned gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

“It feels great when we push each other to go farther and farther,” he said of competing with Kumar Jena. His title defence opened controversially.

He hurled close to the 85m line on his first throw and pumped the air in celebration, but his score didn’t register and a lengthy delay followed. Chopra eventually threw again, making 82.38m, then improved to 84.49m.

But Kumar Jena, who was fifth in Budapest, then produced his all-time best to put the pressure on, before Chopra hit back.

“I had some issues in the first throw. There may have been a technical problem or they may not have measured my first throw properly,” he said of the delay.

“This is the first time this has happened to me in a competition. The rule is for six throws, but I threw seven times.” Chopra’s job was made easier after his chief rival, Pakistan ace Arshad Nadeem, pulled out on Tuesday with a knee injury. Kumar Jena was content to finish behind his “idol”.

“Keep watching, you will see more of us in the future too,” he warned.

Qatar’s Barshim skipped the season-ending Diamond League event at Eugene last month to prepare to add to his 2010 and 2014 Asiad titles, and it paid dividends.
He entered on the fourth jump at 2.19m and it turned into a battle with South Korea’s Woo Sang-hyeok, who won the Diamond League in Eugene that Barshim skipped.

The Qatari prevailed, clearing a new Games record 2.35m with Woo unable to match it.

“It feels amazing to be honest. Winning today my third gold, I should be really happy and satisfied,” said Barshim, who owns the second-highest jump in history at 2.43m.
“We are very greedy as athletes and always want more, more, more. That’s the nature of it and I love it. You need to push yourself to the limit.”

Barshim had extra motivation to get back on top after being shocked in Budapest by Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who denied him a fourth consecutive title.

In other action, China’s Wang Chunyu was dethroned as women’s 800m champion by Sri Lanka’s Tharushi Karunarathna, who ran a storming 2:03.20.

It was enough to edge India’s Harmilan Bains with Wang taking bronze.

In contrast, Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew, who was sixth at the Tokyo Olympics, was a successful title defender with his 13:17.41 in the 5,000m, a new Games record.

India’s Avinash Sable, who won the 3,000m steeplechase, came second and fellow Bahraini Dawit Fikadu third.

Uzbekistan’s Sharifa Davronova was crowned triple jump champion with a new personal best 14.09m. India won the men’s 4x400m relay and Bahrain took out the women’s race.