Bright prospect

When she takes off towards the high jump pit, she is more like a bird in a rhythmic flight preparing for landing. So graceful is her act, this teenager is one of the bright prospects of Indian field events. Meet the 13-year-old frail lookingever smiling Gayathry Sivakumar, a junior high jumper from Kerala, who impressed both coaches and spectators with her record-breaking effort in the 30th Junior National Athletic Championship which concluded recently in Vijayawada.

Tipped as another Bobby Aloysius in the making, Gayathry effortlessly rewrote the under-14 record bettering her own, set in the Bangalore edition (1.55m) and in the inter-zonal championship in Kochi (1.59) by clearing 1.61m. She tried to cross 1.63m but failed.

Her mother Shiba Kumari was a State-level high jumper and her older sister Pooja is doing well in this segment as well. "Gayathry used to accompany her sister Pooja during training. She got hooked watching her sister in action," says the little champ's father Sivakumar, a businessman.

Former Railway athlete Manoj T. Thomas took her under his wings and thus began, what appears, a very promising career for the Ernakulam-born Class VIII student of Bhavan Vidya Mandir. Gayathry trains for three hours daily at the Navadarshan Academy. In fact, this little girl announced her arrival in the Bangalore edition of the Junior National Championship.

"Gayathry's personal best is 1.63m in a State meet. May be she might have felt uncomfortable performing on a mud surface as she is used to practicing on a synthetic surface," says her coach Manoj Thomas.

She started performing straddle style but later, as per her coach's advice, shifted to the Fosbury Flop, the most popular manoeuvre used the world over. "Thanks to the top quality beds, this style is the mostsought after among jumpers," says her mother Shiba, a straddle stylist in her active days.

Interestingly, Gayathry is also keen on long jump and she has started figuring in the finals in the State and National meets. "Maybe we need to convince her to give up long jump and concentrate on high jump to avoid injury and wear and tear," says Sivakumar. Coach Manoj feels that Gayathry has natural qualities, sound technique and good height - all the basic factors of a successful high jumper.

A poor eater, Gayathry, who is all bones and no muscles, has to put on the required weight and build muscles in the lower-half of her body to gain the allimportant lift during her take off.

The next big challenge for Gayathry will be the CBSE National meet in Ahmedabad where she aims to clear her target - 1.70m, provided it is a synthetic surface. What goes through her mind when taking off?

"I keep telling myself, "clear it" says the precocious teenager with a giggle.

J. R. Shridharan