Seema Punia targets World C'ships after gold on Asiad debut
Life has never been simple for Seema Punia (nee Antil). Often in the eye of a storm, yesterday belonged to her, as she basked in the glory of the finest moment of her career after winning the Asian Games discus gold medal.
India's gold medalist Seema Punia on the podium during the medal ceremony yesterday. Pics/PTI
It was the fifth time in a row that India had won a medal in women's discus throw. After Neelam Jaswant Singh's bronze in 1998 and gold in 2002, Krishna Poonia won a bronze in 2006 and 2010. Seema becomes only the second Indian to win a gold in women's discus throw.
"This is a big moment for me and my husband, Ankush (Chaudhary), who has been with me every step," said an emotional Seema. "This is my first Asian Games. I have always missed out on it. There was a big misunderstanding in 2006 and I missed out despite being cleared. And I did not get selected in 2010."
"It was fantastic. You feel really good about it. This was not my best effort. So I could have done better. My next goal is the World Championships. The track was wet, but if there is enough training and confidence, it does not really matter.
"To me the Asian Games meant a lot and I knew this was my chance. I had trained well and I knew that despite others (Chinese) having better personal bests, I was in form this season," she added.
India won two other bronze medals yesterday as OP Jaisha, a bronze medallist in 2006 Asian Games, won a bronze in women's 1,500m in 4:13.46 behind Bahrain's Maryam Yusuf Jamal 4:09.90)and Mimi Belete Gebregeiorges (4:11.03) of Bahrain who were first and second.
Naveen Kumar in men's 3000m steeplechase in a personal 8:40:39 as Qatar's Kamal Abubaker Ali and Bahrain's Tareq Mubarak Taher won gold and silver.
Making light of the wet and somewhat slippery conditions – her Commonwealth Games silver also came in similar conditions - the 31-year-old Seema unleashed a creditable series of throws that were way better than the field. Seema's arch-rival and teammate Krishna Poonia, the 2010 Commonwealth Games champion, finished fourth and just out of the medals.
Seema led for most of the competition after opening the day with a 55.76m first throw. It was the best in the first round from among the 11 who started in the field.
Only once in the second round did Seema trail, when Tan Jian, a top-six finisher at the last two World Championships, headed her with a throw of 57.29m, as compared to the 57,00 throw from the Indian.
Into the third round, Seema, a powerful five-foot-tall athlete, uncorked 59.36m, which was remained the day's best till she herself hurled the disc to 61.03m in the fourth round. That throw stood good for the gold, while China's Lu Xiaoxin managed 59.35m on her second last attempt to pip her teammate Jian (59.03m) to the
This was the second Seema was competing in Incheon. "I came here in 2005 for the Asian Track and field (at the Munhak Stadium) and finished fifth (Krishna won a bronze) and so I was determined to win (the gold) here. I did not get my personal best but a gold is fine," she said.
"I have been crossing 64-65 metres in trials. The Athletic Federation has been very good to me. Under the National Sports Development Fund scheme, they allowed me to train in United States before the Commonwealth Games.
That paid off as I got a silver medal. I had trained with US throwing coach, Tony Ciarelli. Again after the Commonwealth Games, I asked the federation to send me for a month and they did.
I came from California on September 18 and reached here on September 21. I don't now have many acclimatization problems as my husband Ankush takes care of all that ensures good diet for me," said Seema.
Part of a fairly successful trio of women's discus throwers – Krishna Poonia and Harwant Kaur being the other two - Seema, was always the least feted one.
Beginning as a hurdler and long jumper, Seema hit the headlines first in 2000, when she beat the then National champion Neelam Jaswant Singh at the Open National in Calcutta. That year came her first tryst with World Juniors, where she won and lost the gold in Santiago, Chile.
She was then stripped off her medal and given a public warning for usage of pseudoephedrine, which she said she had used for cold. But two years later Seema won a bronze at the World Juniors in Kingston, Jamaica.