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Asian Games

Accidental shot putter Kiran Baliyan scripts Asian Games history

Kiran Baliyan became the first Indian woman in 72 years to win a medal in shot put at the Asian Games. But she has no airs about the magnitude of her feat.

Accidental shot putter Kiran Baliyan scripts Asian Games history
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Kiran Baliyan (right) on the podium at the Asian Games (AGNS)

By

Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 30 Sep 2023 2:31 AM GMT

Hangzhou: Nine years ago, Kiran Baliyan had entered her first shot put competition because a clerical error put her name in that event instead of javelin throw. There were three girls in that event, out of whom Kiran had finished third. Cut to the Asian Games women's shot put finals on Saturday night, she again finished third - but this time, it was a historic bronze medal she won for India.

Since the 1951 Asian Games, there have been 18 medals won by India in shot put - all of them by men. Kiran's bronze medal is the first by a woman since Barbara Webster, an athlete of Anglo-Indian heritage, won a bronze at the first ever edition.

"I have no idea about the history you are talking about, I just wanted to give my best here. The start list showed that I could have a chance at a medal. I am not very happy with my performance, but I am happy that I could win a medal for the country," Kiran said after her feat at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.

Kiran's historic medal got India's campaign in athletics off to a brilliant start, which bodes well for the coming days. Neeraj Chopra, who will be in action later, was among the Indian athletics contingent present at the stadium to cheer her on. Legendary discus thrower Seema Punia was in the stands guiding Kiran on.

Despite all the glitz surrounding Kiran Baliyan, the 24-year-old seems to not have any airs about the magnitude of what she has achieved in her first senior international competition.

"Seeing such a huge crowd for the first time, playing at my first Asian Games, I was a little nervous. But there was no pressure on my performance. I had sealed the medal with my second throw, but I still wanted to reach a new personal best. I could not do that," she said.

A new star on the block

Kiran's 17.36m throw on Saturday night was the second best throw in her career. Her personal best remains the 17.92m throw she achieved at the IGP 5 in Chandigarh earlier this month, where she had been under pressure to protect her spot in the Indian squad from the other fast-rising woman shot putter Abha Khatua.

Manpreet Kaur, the most well-known of India's women shot putters, on the other hand, finished 5th in Saturday's final with a 16.25m throw. The gold and silver medals were taken by China's Gong Lijiao (19.58m) and Song Jiayuan (18.92m) of China.

India's national record, jointly held by Manpreet Kaur and Abha Khatua, is 18.06m. As Kiran's explosive show displayed on Saturday night, that national record is now in imminent danger.

"Back in 2014, I started to go to the Kailash Prakash Sport Stadium in Meerut, mostly training in javelin throw, but without any seriousness. At the North Zone competition at the Delhi Public School held that year, I was mistakenly entered in shot put in place of another girl," said Kiran.

Her first attempt at the sport might not have been very successful, but her coach in Meerut, Robin Singh, saw something in her that led him to encourage her to try shot put with more earnestness.

The daughter of a traffic policeman and a housewife, Kiran has validated that decision from nine years ago with a piece of history worth its weight in gold.

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