Rattled by a dope scandal, Indian athletics finally has something to cheer about as long jumper Mayookha Johny led the Indian charge with a gold on the opening day of the 19th Asian Championships here on Thursday. Discus thrower Vikas Gowda added a silver while Asian Games gold medallist Preeja Sreedharan bagged a bronze in women's 10,000m race.
Mayookha leapt 6.56m in her second jump to open India's gold medal account on a rain-hit opening day at the Kobe Universiade Stadium to emulate her idol Anju Bobby George who had won Asian Championship gold in 2005.
China's Lu Minjia won the silver by jumping 6.52m while the bronze went to Japanese Saeko Okayama who had an effort of 6.51m. The women's long jump event was delayed after the stadium was lashed by rain which affected the performance of the athletes.
Mayookha's training mate and Commonwealth Games silver medallist MA Prajusha finished sixth with an effort of 6.27m. Mayookha's effort though was below her season's best of 6.63m which she recorded in the National Inter-state Meet in Bangalore last month and her personal best of 6.64m which she came up at the Asian All Star Meet in New Delhi last year. She also failed to go past the 2012 London Olympics and next month's World Championships 'B' qualifying standard of 6.65m.
Earlier in the morning session, national record holder Gowda's performance was also affected by weather conditions as he finished second with an effort of 61.58m, behind Iranian Asian record holder Ehsan Hadadi who also had a below par 62.27m. The bronze medal went to Wu Jian of China (56.61m).
This was the Iranian's fourth consecutive Asian title though he was well below his season's best of 65.89m and Asian record of 69.32m.
Gowda, who has a season's best of 64.91 and and three marks over 64 metres, has already crossed the 2012 London Olympics and next month's World Championships 'B' qualifying standard of 63m while he is yet to touch the 'A' standard of 65m.
It was a bit of a disappointment though for the Indian camp as Preeja had to settle for a bronze in 10,000m. Preeja, who has been struggling to reach her peak form, clocked 33:16.55sec, much below her Asian Games gold-winning timing of 31:50:28.
Compatriot Kavita Raut, who had won silver in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, was a poor sixth with a below par 35:24.35, much below her personal best of 31:51.44. S E Habitegbrel of Bahrain won the gold in 32:47.80 while compatriot and 2007 champion Kareema Jasim Saleh took silver in 32:50.90.
A 35-member Indian team was participating in the continent's top competition in the backdrop of a dope scandal after eight athletes returned positive for anabolic steroids. Double Asian gold medallist Ashwini Akkunji and her Commonwealth and Asian 4x400m relay gold-medal winning team-mates Mandeep Kaur and Sini Jose were among the eight.
Ashwini and another quarter-miler Priyanka Panwar were caught for doping hours before they were to leave for the Asian Championships.