Sudha Singh clinched a gold in women's 3000m steeplechase event to swell India's medal tally on the third and penultimate day at the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships. The Uttar Pradesh athlete won the race in 9 minute 59.47 seconds to grab the first gold of the day for India in front of a packed crowd at the Kalinga Stadium.
Sudha, who had also won a silver each in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 editions, was a gold medal contender in the absence of compatriot Lalita Babar, who skipped the event after her recent marriage, and Bahrain's world and Asian record holder Ruth Jebet. The 31-year-old Sudha led from the very beginning, and after running together for a while along with the other five competitors, broke away around the halfway mark and left all her rivals way behind to win the gold. She took a lap of honour after her win.
It was a creditable sub-10 minute win for Sudha who has been away from training for several months after she suffered from swine flu on her return from the Rio Olympic Games last year. North Korea's 18-year-old Hyo Gyong was a distant second in 10:13.94 while Japan's Nana Sato took the bronze in 10:18.11.
"I am very happy to win this gold. This is has been my top level competition after Rio Olympics. I was down with swine flu after the Rio Olympics and I was unwell for five-six months and ever since then I started training slowly and steadily. So, this win is special. It is a slow timing but the conditions are not that good," she said after her win.
"My coach told me not to hang around for long. He told me to break away from the rest and not wait for the final moment. That was what I did," she added.
Asked about next month's World Championships for which she has qualified after today's win, she said, "World Championships is a big challenge for me. I want to do well there and I want to break national record."
However, in men's 3000m steeplechase, Naveen Kumar, a bronze medallist in 2014 Asian Games, and Durga Das Budha finished a disappointing seventh and eighth in 9:02.95 and 9:04.05 respectively.
In men's 110m hurdles, India's Siddharth Thingalaya finished fifth in 13.72 seconds. Kuwait won both the gold and silver with Abdulazia Al-Mandeel and Yaqoub Al-Youha clocking 13.50 and 13.59 respectively.
With today's one gold, India have swelled their medal tally to 7 gold, 3 silver and 6 bronze.