HANGZHOU: Bahrain’s untouchable world title holder Winfred Yavi surged to the Asian Games 3,000m steeplechase gold medal on Monday, as Iranian veteran Ehsan Hadadi’s 17-year reign as discus champion came to an end. Yavi was in a league of her own at the Hangzhou Olympic Stadium, defending her title in a new Games record 9min 18.28sec to back up the 1,500m gold she won on Sunday.

It was the highlight of a night where the titles were split between six nations, including China’s Li Ling claiming a third straight women’s pole vault gold, clearing a new Games record 4.63m. Yavi stormed to victory ahead of Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech at the worlds at Budapest in August, then ran the second fastest time in history, 8:50.66, at the Eugene Diamond League last month.

But she had no one to push her faster in Hangzhou as she cruised home ahead of Indian pair Parul Chaudhary and Priti, who both clocked personal bests. “Anything can happen, so today I planned to play the game safe. I had a lot of pressure (with people) saying ‘you’re going to win’,” the 23-year-old said. “So I was careful, and just tried to break the Asian Games record.” With the 1,500m in the bag along with the steeplechase, Yavi said it had given her confidence to branch out further. “It means I’m capable of shifting to different events.

I don’t need to stay in the steeplechase for a long time, I can graduate slowly, slowly to different events,” she said. “Maybe I’ll do 5k or 10k road races, and in the future maybe even a marathon.” Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim was also in good nick, needing just one effort to qualify for the men’s high-jump final, where he is overwhelming favourite. The Qatari leapt 2.19m to lead the field into Wednesday’s gold-medal showdown. His chief rival is South Korea’s Woo Sang-hyeok, who won last month’s Eugene Diamond League in a personal best 2.35m and also comfortably qualified.

‘It’s been so crazy’

Few athletes have been as dominant as Hadadi in the discus, with the 38-year-old unbeaten at the Asian Games since winning his first gold at Doha in 2006. But his reign is over, with fellow Iranian Hossein Rasouli heaving 62.04m to his teammate’s 61.82. In other action, Singapore’s Shanti Pereira powered to the women’s 200m title in 23.03 with China’s Li Yuting second and Bahrain’s 2018 champion Edidiong Odiong third. It helped justify Pereira’s decision to quit her job as a copywriter this year and become a full-time athlete.

“I knew I crossed the line first, and I was like ‘Oh my God’,” said Pereira. “What a season. It’s been so crazy, it means a lot to me. I can’t really describe this.” But there was heartache for Bahrain’s former 400m world champion Salwa Eid Naser, who was disqualified from the 200m final to scupper her bid for a first major title since returning from a drugs ban. Eid Naser ran the third-fastest 400m time in history when she won the 2019 world title, but she was slapped with a two-year ban for missing doping tests in 2021.

She returned to competition this year, and had managed silver in the 400m in Hangzhou. Japan’s Koki Ueyama won the men’s 200m title in 20.60 while Japan’s Shunya Takatama and Kuwait’s Yaqoub Alyouha dead-heated in 13.41 in the 110m hurdles and were both awarded a gold medal. China’s Xiong Shiqi leapt a new personal best 6.73m to be crowned women’s long jump champion, while Bahrain took out the 4x400m mixed relay ahead of India and Kazakhstan. A third women’s weightlifting world record was broken on Monday as North Korea continued to dominate at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Monday on their return to international competition after four years away.

Kim Il Gyong, who appears to have last competed internationally as a 14-year-old junior in 2018, set a new snatch record of 111kg on her way to gold in the women’s 59kg class. The 20-year-old then hoisted 135kg in the clean and jerk to finish on a 246kg total and condemn China’s Luo Shifang to silver with former snatch world record-holder Kuo Hsing-chun of Taiwan in third. “Like athletes from other NOCs we train in great venues. We are devoted and very committed to our preparation,” said Kim when asked how lifters from her country were able to shatter so many world records.

Later Rim Un Sim comfortably won a second Asian Games gold medal, adding the women’s 64kg title to the 69kg gold she won in Jakarta five years ago, though she failed with a snatch world record attempt at 118kg. On Saturday Ri Song Gum broke two world records in the women’s 49kg, the first weightlifting event of the Hangzhou Games. Kang Hyong Yong, a 24-year-old with no international pedigree, followed up in staggering fashion with a hat-trick of world records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and combined on her way to gold in the women’s 55kg class.

Kim, who is still technically a junior, also broke the junior world records on Monday for all three categories. She finished 1kg short of Kuo’s senior world record total of 247kg. Hidilyn Diaz, the Olympic and world champion in the 55kg division, was fourth. Diaz, who is the only athlete from the Philippines to ever win an Olympic gold, is building towards the Paris Games. – AFP