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Asian Games

Smart strategy, bravery & a 2-year-bond: Kartik Kumar, Gulveer Singh earn double delight in 10000m final

India won a silver and a bronze in the men's 10,000m final. This is the first double podium for the country at this event, the first medal in 25 years, and the highest medal won in 45 years.

Smart strategy, bravery & a 2-year-bond: Kartik Kumar, Gulveer Singh earn double delight in 10000m final

Gulveer Singh (bronze) and Kartik Kumar (silver) at the end of the 10000m final (DD)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 30 Sep 2023 7:34 PM GMT

Hangzhou: Kartik Kumar and Gulveer Singh have been running together and staying together for the last two years, first at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, and recently in Colorado, USA. In the men's 10000m final at the Asian Games on Saturday night, both of them created new personal bests to win a silver and a bronze medal for India.

Not only was this the first ever double podium finish at this event, the medals were the first for India in 10000m since Gulab Chand’s bronze in 1998. Kartik's silver was the best finish for an Indian since Hari Chand's gold in 1978.

"We have been training to run together in tandem. We had come with a plan to break the national record. That didn't happen," history-maker Kartik Kumar, for whom this was the first major international medal, told The Bridge after his race.

Kartik's 28:15.38 and Gulveer's 28:17.21 were almost 15 seconds short of the existing national record - Surendra Singh's 28:02.89 set in 2008 - but their coach, the legendary Scott Simmons, said the day that record falls is not far away.

"In the past, 10000m runners in India haven't been prepared for that full distance. Kartik and Gulveer have been training with me in USA, they train with American athletes who are Olympic medalists. Training with athletes of that level has given them the confidence, as you saw today," Simmons said.

Kartik sets the pace

It was Kartik who started off the race with a massive lead, as Gulveer stayed behind with the first pack of runners chasing Kartik.

"Kartik thought the pace was too slow in the beginning, I thought 10km is a lot, let me save my energy," Gulveer said once when he came out of the venue after some medical treatment after the bruising race.

But coach Simmons said the plan had been that both of them would take a headstart from the rest of the pack from the very beginning to put the Bahrainis and Japanese runners under pressure.

"Because this is the end of a long season, a lot of the athletes are not in peak fitness. A lot of the other athletes would have preferred the pace to be slow. They would have just jogged for 9000 metres and then kicked on at the end," he said.

"Kartik's early burst forced the other runners to exert themselves from the beginning. Gulveer should also have gone out of the blocks fast, but he didn't have the confidence," said Simmons.

A collision gets Indians into top spots, Gulveer's bravery stands out

Till the last 1000 metres in the race, Kartik and Gulveer were 6th and 7th in the final. Two Bahrainis, two Japanese and one Saudi runner were ahead of them. But as the race reached its climax, one incident changed everything. There was a collision between the front five, and there was a tumble of bodies on track. The two Indians, who were just behind this clash, managed to avoid the debris and got themselves into the medal positions.

"There were seven of them together till then. It was a smart strategy to keep to the rail instead of being just behind the shoulders of the runners. Unless you're leading, you have to be on the rail to run the shortest distance," Simmons said on how the two Indians avoided getting caught up in the pile-up.

While Gulveer just said that an opponent's spike had tore into the back of his leg during the incident, his coach shed more light on what exactly happened that led to four of the top five runners dropping out at the end.

"It was the second Bahrainian who got disqualified. I just talked to him, but he said it was a Saudi Arabian who he said was crazy, it was the Saudi who spiked him (put his spike shoes onto an opponent's leg). Gulveer got tore into his leg too," said Simmons.

Kartik might have had the shinier medal to show on Saturday night, but it was Gulveer's bravery which stood out.

"Even after being spiked, Gulveer did not fall, he kept going, he kept fighting for the medals. I'm proud of him. The two of them had to 'steeple-chase' a few guys to get out of the pile-up and then held their composure to secure the double podium. People think it's a long race and it's boring, but today was very exciting," Simmons said.

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