In our UP, it takes a gold medal to get you the DSP post: Parul Chaudhary
A brilliant late dash helps her win the 5000m gold at Hangzhou, hardly 24 hours after winning silver in the 3000m steeplechase
Twenty-four hours after winning silver in the 3000m steeplechase, with the body further drained after just three hours of sleep, and a likely Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) post in Uttar Pradesh Police on the line, Parul Chaudhary made a sensational late dash to snatch victory in the 5000 metres on Tuesday.
“In our UP, it takes a gold medal to get you the post of DSP. I hope this effort gets me that position,” Parul was so candid that everyone who understood her had a hearty laugh as she basked in the victory.
Her run though was no laughing matter. Unlike in the steeplechase where she led or stuck to Bahrain’s eventual winner Winfred Mutile Yavi for most part, Parul was content to stay in the middle of the pack, even when the pace slackened.
While Japan’s Ririka Hironaka led the field through the first 1000m, the next two 1000m splits were owned by Edao Bontu, before Hironaka again took over in the last lap. Chaudhary was patient even when the Japanese runner seemed to have opened up a potentially winning gap with 150m left.
Few could have doubted the Indian runner’s credentials. She had set the national record of 15:10.35 in May, but it still didn’t look like she had the legs on Tuesday to sprint home with even 30m left. That was when Parul stunned Hironaka by darting through the inner lane while the Japanese turned to her right to see if there were any late challengers.
Parul, who clocked 15:14.75 for the win, never moved ahead once she settled on the fourth spot, even dropping to sixth until she made her way up to third at the end of the 10th lap. With two-and-a-half laps to go, Chaudhary moved up to second with Hironaka in the lead as the other contenders began to fade away.
Though the Japanese opened up a useful lead on the final bend, Parul never gave up, eventually reeling in the tiring Hironaka as the buzzing Hangzhou Olympics Sports Centre Stadium watched in disbelief.
“Last night, I was tired after winning the steeplechase silver. I slept only for three hours and since I wasn’t able to win gold, I wanted to somehow get the 5000m gold. God was kind tonight,” she said.
“In the last 50 metres, I was thinking that my government would give me a nice job. If it is a DSP, nothing like it,” Parul, who is employed with the Railways, added.
While she was over four seconds slower than her national mark, which was set in the USA, the race wasn’t short of effort. Four athletes recorded their personal best and three clocked their season’s best in excellent weather for distance running.
American coach Scott Simmons, who trains Parul and the men’s steeplechase champion Avinash Sable in the altitude of Colorado Springs, wasn’t surprised with the result. Parul, he said, had been practicing the late kick and had enough in her lungs and legs to push through.
“The strategy was to stay with the pack regardless of the pace. If the pace was too slow, we wanted her to push. But she never had to. The Japanese set a solid pace. It slowed in the middle, and when it started to heat up in the last 1000m, Parul still looked strong. We had trained specifically for the finishing kicks,” Simmons, who has been training Parul for two years, said.
“I don’t think the Japanese girl got complacent. Both were going for gold, but Parul had that extra gear. We developed her speed for 5000m and we also trained for speed development. I didn’t want her to be slower than 15.20. She is faster than her national record and she can get even better.”
Silver for Tejaswin
Tejaswin Shankar, the overnight leader in decathlon, braved cramp in his right hamstring to win silver with a national record of 7,666 points. The previous mark belonged to Bharatinder Singh (7,658 points) and had stood since 2011. The morning session of Day 2 featured 110m hurdles, discus and pole vault with the javelin and 1500m in the evening.
Coming into the final session, Shankar was on 6,431 points, 91 behind China’s Sun Qihao. Japan’s Asian champion Yuma Maruyama was lying third (6223). The order didn't change in the end but Shankar, who won bronze at the Asian Championships, ran a brave 1500m to eclipse the national mark, remarkable considering that he is essentially a high jumper who took up the 10-event competition seriously in the last year or so.
“It feels great to win a medal with the national record. Now I can philosophise about increasing the popularity of decathlon,” he said. “I felt it was important to finish the event rather than push myself in the 1,500m and not finish at all.”
In men's 800m, Mohammed Afsal took silver (1:48.43) in a slow race, behind Saudi Arabia's Essa Ali Kzwani (1:48.05). India’s second runner, Krishan Kumar, a strong contender, was disqualified for obstruction.
India’s male triple jumpers again failed to hit their best. Pravin Chitharavel finished third with a best effort of 16.68m while compatriot Abdulla Aboobacker was fourth (16.62m). Zhu Yaming’s winning jump was 17.13m and Fang Yaoqing made it a Chinese 1-2 with silver (16.93).
In the women's 400m hurdles final, Vithya Ramraj, who equalled PT Usha’s 39-year-old national record of 55.42 seconds on Monday, trailed in third (55.68 secs), behind Bahrain's Oluwakemi Adekoya (54.45secs, Games record) and China's Mo Jiadie (55.01).