Gold Coast, April 12: Discus throwers Seema Punia and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon opened India's medal account in athletics at the 21st Commonwealth Games, clinching a silver and bronze respectively here. Punia came up with a best effort of 60.41m, which she did in her opening attempt to win her fourth successive CWG medal while Dhillon clinched her maiden medal with her final throw of 57.43m.
The 34-year-old Punia had 59.57m in her second throw and fouled her third and fifth attempts while coming up with a 58.54m in between. She had a final throw of 58.90m.
The 23-year-old Dhillon, a former World Junior Championships bronze medallist, was at fourth place after the penultimate round behind Sositina Hakeai of New Zealand but her final round throw gave her a bronze in her maiden CWG appearance.
India grabbed its first two medals in Athletics after Seema Punia bagged a Silver🥈 and Navjeet Dhillon a Bronze🥉 in the Women's Discus Throw finals.#GC2018 #GC2018Athletics #ShareTheDream pic.twitter.com/OngOKX7vG6— IOS India (@iosindiaoff) April 12, 2018
Punia, who was possibly competing in her final CWG, was, though, well below her best. She has a season's best of 61.05m which she did while winning the gold in the Federation Cup National Championships last month. She has a personal best of 64.84m which she achieved long time back in 2004.
She was anything but happy after the silver. "What should I tell you about my training? I have opened India's account, delivered the medal, why is everybody so interested in where I am training," the 34-year-old from Haryana, whose dope-tainted past has always put her under scrutiny, said after the triumph.
Before the ongoing Games, reports had emerged of her being incommunicado, which were denied by her as well as the national federation. The insinuation of wrongdoing was not lost on her as she took questions on the issue. "I have trained here, I have trained abroad too. What should I tell you about the technicalities? how many hours are spent lifting the discus? How do I explain things to somebody who doesn't know the dynamics of my sport," she added with a good measure of irritation in her tone.
"We were training without a coach, what else could we do. But I think I could have thrown three to four metre farther. I am not very happy because I was ready for a good throw but could not do it. I think my shoulder was not holding up that well. I could have gone for 64-65m," Punia said later.
Former world champion Australian Dani Stevens won the gold with a Games record best throw of 68.26m which she came up in her fourth attempt. "Dani was also not 100 per cent I think, but she is a former world champion. I came here for a gold medal which I could not get so I should start preparing for the next Games," said Punia.
Punia has been the most decorated Indian track and field athlete in the Commonwealth Games history, delivering a medal each time she has represented the country in the quadrennial event. Starting from the 2006 edition in Melbourne, where she won a silver, the Haryana athlete has been on the podium in 2010 (silver) and 2014 (bronze).
Confident & Steady wins the Throw!— IOA - Team India (@ioaindia) April 12, 2018
A bravo last attempt throw by #NavjeetDhillon won #TeamIndia 2 podium finishes at #GC2018 #GC2018Athletics Women's Discus Throw Finals!#SeemaPunia 🥈 with a throw of 60.41#NavjeetDhillon 🥉 with a throw of 57.43#Congratulations 🇮🇳👍✌👏 pic.twitter.com/WwTCJyAxvl
Dhillon, on her part, said she knew a podium finish was within her reach and so remained calm till the end. "A medal was in the range and I did not want to give it up. I was nervous and there was pressure but then I was confident (to get a medal). I am proud that I could contribute to the country's medal tally," Dhillon said later. "I won a medal at Junior World championships in 2014, but I got bogged down by the pressure of expectations after that. But this time I coped (pressure) much better," she added.
Dhillon said she hoped to get some sponsors after her bronze-winning feat. "If I get a sponsor it would be great for me. Not having sponsors affect you preparations, I could have done much more if support was there. I have approached some organisations but then they will only support you if you perform. So I am hoping that they would support me," she said.
Earlier, Arpinder Singh and A V Rakesh Babu made the men's triple jump final while Nayana James and Neena Varakil came up with disappointing performances to finish at the bottom of the heap in the women's long jump finals.
Arpinder, a bronze-medallist from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, topped his group and finished second overall in the qualifying round with an effort of 16.39m. He has a personal best of 17.17m. The Indian finished behind Dominica's Yordanys Garcia who was the only one to enter the final after achieving the automatic qualifying mark of 16.75m. The other Indian in fray, Rakesh Babu qualified 12th with an effort of 15.98m. The final round will be held on April 14.
"My new Romanian coach (Bedros Bedrosian) has been of great help for the last year," Arpinder said of his qualifying performance.
In women's long jump final, Neena and Nayana finished 10th and last in a 12-woman field with disappointing performances. Neena had a best effort of 6.19m while Nayana came up with a 6.14m. Neena has a personal best of 6.66m while Nayana's personal best is 6.55m.
"We are not at all satisfied with the performance of our long jumpers. They could have done better. But we are happy of Seema Punia and Navjeet Dhillon as well as the quartermilers Mohd. Anas Yahiya and Hima Das," Athletics Federation of India Secretary C K Valson said.
Meanwhile, heptathlete Purnima Hembram was lying at seventh with 2565 points after three events of 100m hurdles, high jump and shot put. Alysha Burnett of Australia was leading the pack with 2770 points.