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Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
India win second track gold medal after a 52-year wait

India surprisingly won the women’s 4x400m relay yesterday at the Commonwealth Games, with Ashwini Akkunji overtaking a Nigerian opponent just before the final handoff and Mandeep Kaur sprinting to victory.

The gold was only the second on the track in Commonwealth Games history for India. The only other Indian athlete to win a track medal at the event is Milkha Singh. “The Flying Sikh” earned gold in the 440-yard race at the 1958 event in Cardiff, Wales.

“That may just have changed the direction of track and field (in India),” said two-time Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe, who is part Indian on his mother’s side and was at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to see the race. “Not only track and field in India, but in Asia.”

Photo New stars: (from left) India’s Sini Jose, Mandeep Kaur, Manjeet Kaur and Ashwini Akkunji posing with their gold medals for the women’s 4x400m Tuesday. — Reuters

India, which had Manjeet Kaur and Sini Jose running the opening two legs of the race that circles the track four times, won in 3:27.77 sec.

“Sensational,” said Coe, who is the head of the London 2012 Olympics organising committee and a vice-president of the international athletics federation. “We will be lacking if we don’t capitalise on this. Hundreds of millions of people tonight, they know they (India) can perform at the top level.”

Akkunji started the third leg in second place, but she turned on the pace around the final bend and passed Nigeria’s Bukola Abogunloko just before the final handoff.

The crowd at the Nehru Stadium, which had been sp{censored} for the first few days of competition but was packed nearly to capacity for the third straight night, roared to cheer on Mandeep Kaur over the final 400m.

“I have got goosebumps right now. I think we won because of the crowd support we had,” Mandeep Kaur said. “I thought we would come second, but my team had the self-belief to do it. The baton (after the third lap) was passed in time for us to go for the win.”

Thousands of fans stayed in their seats long after the final event was over to watch the four women receive their gold at the medal ceremony. After letting out another roar when the athletes climbed atop the podium, the crowd sang along with the playing of the national anthem.

“The Games are in Delhi so we had to go for gold,” Manjeet Kaur said.
Nigeria ended up with the silver medal in 3:28.72, and England earned bronze in 3:29.51.

In the men’s 4x400, Australia took gold in 3:03.30. Kenya was next in 3:03.84 and England won another bronze in 3:03.97.

England swept the gold medals in the 4x100 relays, winning both the men’s and women’s races and giving Mark Lewis-Francis his second medal of the week.

The men’s team of Ryan Scott, Leon Baptiste, Marlon Devonish and Lewis-Francis won in 38.74 seconds, holding off a Jamaican team missing top sprinters Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.

“This performance brings back memories of 2004,” said Lewis-Francis, who won an Olympic gold medal with Britain at the Athens Games and also earned silver in the 100. “I couldn’t have asked for more today.”

Jamaica was second in 38.79 and India was third in 38.89.

In the women’s sprint relay, England earned the gold by nearly a second, winning in 44.19. Katherine Endacott led off and was followed by Montell Douglas, Laura Turner and Abiodun Oyepitan.

The win continues England’s streak of never having finished off the podium in the event at the Commonwealth Games.

“These are such big games,” Douglas said. “I am definitely never ever going to forget this in my life.”

Ghana was second in 45.24, and India again took bronze in 45.25.

“Had we sprinted a little harder in the end we would have got it (the silver),” said Geetha Satti, who ran the first leg for India. “We were expecting a medal. We just missed in the last moment otherwise we would have won silver.”

Silas Kiplagat of Kenya won the men’s 1,500m in 3:41.78, and teammate James Magut was second in 3:42.27. But defending champion Nick Willis of New Zealand helped avoid a Kenyan sweep by claiming bronze in 3:42.38.

Kenya was able to sweep all the medals in the women’s 5,000m, however, with world champion Vivian Cheruiyot winning in 15:55.12 and world silver medalist Sylvia Kibet next in 15:55.61. Ines Chenonge fell off the pace on the last lap and took bronze in 16:02.47. — AP



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