It was a disappointing start for India in the track and field events of the Rio Games as all three athletes, including discus thrower Vikas Gowda, fell by the wayside at the qualification stage itself, here on Friday.
33-year-old Gowda, in his fourth straight Olympics, produced an utterly below-par performance with a best throw of 58.99m to finish 28th overall out of 34 competitors. He finished 16th in a field of 18 in Group B qualification round.
Gowda, who holds the national record of 66.28m, had come into the Olympics without taking part in any competition this year due to a shoulder injury. He had last taken part in a competition in September last year in the ISTAF Meet in Berlin.
The Mysore-born US-based Indian, the reigning Asian champion, began with a 57.59m and improved by more than a metre to 58.99m in his second throw before producing a 58.70m in his third and final attempt.
This has been the worst performance for Gowda, who won a gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and a silver in the 2014 Asian Games, in his four appearances in the Olympics. He had failed to qualify for the final round in 2004 and 2008 Olympics but made it to final round to eventually finish eighth in the 2012 London Games.
“My performance was not very good today. Frustrating. Just had a lot of bad luck this year. Lot of injuries. Was not able to train until three-four weeks ago. Obviously, that was not enough time to prepare,” Gowda said.
“I tore both quad-tendons of my knees. Right above the kneecap, earlier in the year. It did progress, so I had to take a break from training. So, not enough enough time.”
Favourite Piotr Malachowski of Poland topped the qualification round with a best throw of 65.89m, followed by Lukas Weisshaidinger (65.86m) of Austria and Christoph Harting (65.41m) of Germany. Reigning Olympic champion Robert Harting of Germany, who battled injuries in his build-up to the Olympics, failed to qualify for the final round as he finished 15th overall with a best throw of 62.21m.
The qualifying mark for the final round was set at a high of 65.50m or at least 12 best performers.
In women’s shot put, national record holder Manpreet Kaur finished a disappointing 23rd overall out of 35 competitors with a best throw if 17.06m. She finished 13th in Group B qualifying round.
The 26-year-old Punjab woman, who holds the national record of 17.96m, had her two other throws of 16.68m and 16.67m to bow out of the competition with a below-par performance.
The qualifying mark for the final round was set at a high of 18.40m or at least 12 best performers. Beijing and London Olympics gold medallist Valerie Adams of New Zealand topped the qualification round overall with a throw of 19.74m, followed by Christina Schwanitz (19.18m) of Germany and Michelle Carter (19.01m) of United States.
In men’s 800m race, Jinson Johnson failed to qualify for the semifinals after finishing fifth with a modest timing of 1:47.27secs in Heat Number 3.World record holder David Rudisha of Kenya won the heat in 1:45.09secs. During the race, Johnson was hit on his legs by a fellow runner at the first bend and he struggled a bit for a while before recovering. That might have lost his rhythm a bit.