India clinches gold in mixed relay at Asian Athletics Championships

Long jumper Sreeshankar qualifies for 2024 Olympics

India mixed relay team

The Indian mixed 4x400m relay quartet won gold in mixed relay at the Asian Athletics Championships on Saturday.

The Indian mixed 4x400m relay quartet of Rajesh Ramesh, Aishwarya Mishra, Amoj Jacob and Subha Venkatesan clinched a gold with a time of 3 minutes and 14.70 seconds.

Meanwhile, star Indian long jumper Murali Sreeshankar on Saturday became the first Indian track and field athlete to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after winning a silver medal in the Asian Athletics Championships with a second career-best effort of 8.37m here.

The 24-year-old Sreeshankar achieved the Olympic qualification with his final round jump of 8.37m. The Paris Games mark is 8.27m and the qualification period began on July 1.

Four 20km race walkers -- Akshadeep Singh, Vikas Singh and Paramjeet Singh Bisht in men's event and Priyanka Goswami in women's event -- have already qualified for the Paris Olympics. But race walk is a road event in the Olympics.

The Paris Olympics qualifying period for 10,000m, combined events (decathlon and heptathlon), race walks and relays is from December 31, 2022, to June 30, 2024, while for marathon race, it is from November 1, 2022, to April 30, 2024.

The qualifying period for all other events is from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.

Sreeshankar will be competing in his second Olympics. He was eliminated in the qualification round in the Tokyo Games. Sarvesh Anil Kushare and Swapna Barman added a silver each in men's high jump and heptathlon respectively.

It was the first major international medal for Kushare. His earlier success was the gold in the 2019 South Asian Games. India has so far won 14 medals-- six gold, four silver and four bronze.

Sreeshankar, who won a bronze in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, has already qualified for the Budapest World Championships in August with his career-best and world-second-ranked jump of 8.41m during the qualification round of the National Inter-State Championships last month.

No Indian has ever won a long jump gold in the Asian Championships after T.C. Yohannan stood on the top of the podium in the 1975 edition. The last Indian long jumper to win a medal was K. Prem Kumar who bagged a silver in 2013.

Sreeshankar, who entered the exclusive three-member Indian club of prestigious Diamond League medal winners in Paris last month, was the favourite to win the gold here. He was leading midway through the event with his third jump of 8.12m but his Chinese Taipei opponent took the lead in the fourth round with 8.40m.

Sreeshankar, who trained in the USA and in Europe earlier in the year in the run-up to the World Championships, gave his all in his final attempt. He had a loud roar with clenched fist after his final round jump but a gold eluded him.

Earlier, Santhosh Kumar won bronze medal in men's 400m hurdles with a personal best time of 49.09 seconds on the fourth and penultimate day of competitions. Santhosh clocked the fastest time by an Indian in men's 400m hurdles this year when he finished behind gold medal winner Mohammed Hemeida Bassem (48.64 seconds) of Qatar and Yusaku Kodama (48.96) of Japan.

The 25-year-old's previous best was 49.49 which he had clocked last year.

Another Indian Yashas Palaksha had also qualified for the final but he did not take part.

No Indian has ever won a men's 400m hurdles gold in Asian Championships. Joseph Abraham's silver in 2009 edition was the best performance by an Indian while he also won a bronze in 2007. M.P. Jabir won a bronze each in the last two editions.

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