Poonia breaks drought as Indians unite for Games

Poonia breaks drought as Indians unite for Games


New Delhi: Krishna Poonia hurled a one-kilogram disc just over 61 metres on Monday to end India’s half-century wait for a Commonwealth athletics gold, while women’s sprint champion Osayemi Oludamola was suspended after failing a dope test.

There was redemption for a tearful Sally Pearson when the Australian won the hurdles title 4-day after being disqualified in the cruellest manner as she headed out to collect her 100 metres gold.

Nigeria’s Oludamola ultimately ended up with that sprint medal but it now looks like the 24-year-old could also lose it after she tested positive for a banned substance.

Stayaway big names and small crowds have sometimes made the Delhi athletics look like an obscure, late-season meeting but some 45,000 fans raised the roof at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium when Poonia ended the 52-year wait for an athletics title.

“It’s amazing," she said, after also leading her country’s first athletics podium sweep.

“I dedicate this medal to all the Indians. With this I think we wiped out everything bad that was happening before the Games and came out united."

A cascade of gold medals for the host nation has already helped in the domestic battle to gloss over the embarrassment of the calamitous preparations for the Games and continuing organisational blunders.

There was even a smattering of applause for chief local organiser Suresh Kalmadi when he presented the trio of Indians with their medals, 8-day after he was booed at the opening ceremony.

Kalmadi has borne the brunt of public rage for the rash of problems that have beset the Games for 71 mostly former British colonies, turning what India had hoped would be a display of soft power into a public relations disaster.

Poonia’s achievement would have been unlikely had Australia’s world champion Dani Samuels not been one of several athletes who pulled out of the Games through safety fears, however.

Several more top athletes, including world and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, skipped the event for scheduling reasons and Steve Hooker gave an insight into why after winning the pole vault in a modest 5.60 metres.

“One of the reasons it’s been such a tough year is I’ve always had the Commonwealth Games in the back of my mind. A championship in October is a real challenge," said the Australian, also a world and Olympic champion.


Hooker’s gold helped Australia to move to 64 golds atop the medal table with hosts India second on 30 just ahead of England 26. Diver Alexandre Despatie won his eighth Commonwealth gold to boost Canada to 23 in fourth.

Moses Kipsiro boosted Uganda’s gold tally to two by completing the first long-distance double at a Games for 72 years with a thrilling victory in the 10,000m.

As in his 5,000m victory on the opening night, he won a last-lap sprint to deny Kenya victory. The Kenyans had to be satisfied with a fourth consecutive sweep in the 3,000m steeplechase.

Pearson, who had been disqualified for a false start in last week’s sprint three hours after the race, crossed the line to win the 100m hurdles with a huge smile on her face before collapsing on the track sobbing.

“It was a very difficult week," she said. “I tried my best to keep training and keep my focus."

Oludamola faces a tense wait to discover the result of a test on her B sample after the first sample showed traces of the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. An announcement is expected on Wednesday.

Rugby sevens, which will make its debut at the 2016 Olympics, kicked off at Delhi University on Monday and the leading rugby nations duly handed out thumpings to weaker nations.

India is the least experienced team and three hammerings failed to diminish their enjoyment at taking part in what is one of the few genuinely world-class events at the Games.

“It was fantastic and an amazing moment," India’s try scorer Amit Lochab said after a 56-7 defeat to Wales. “It was hard to defend (but) I am proud of the guys in attack."

Kenyan schoolgirl Khaaliqa Nimji, the youngest competitor in Delhi at 12, was in action on the squash court on Monday.

Nimji qualified by beating her mother at the national trials.

“The village is amazing," she told Reuters. “It is more than I expected. They look after you so well but sometimes it gets a bit boring having the same food every day."