India at World Athletics U20 C'ships: Youth on the right track

At the recent World Athletics under-20 championships in Nairobi, the young, talented and bold Shaili Singh won the silver with 6.59m with a slightly helpful wind, missing the gold by just a centimetre. and there were a few other creditable performances, too.

Immensely talented: World Athletics U20 Championships silver medallist long jumper Shaili Singh with her coach Bobby George and his wife, former long jumper Anju, during an interaction with the Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Thakur, in New Delhi.   -  PTI

While the country is still dizzy with the Tokyo high offered by javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, there is one more athlete who promises to give India another exciting ride.

She is young, talented and bold too. And it looks like long jumper Shaili Singh cherishes the big stage too.

When Robert Bobby George first saw Shaili, at the junior inter-district Nationals in Visakhapatnam four years ago, he was very excited.

Her result — fifth place with 4.93m in the under-14 category — did not reveal much but Bobby, and later his wife Anju George, too, felt that the girl was very special, that she had all the qualities to be a top jumper.

Shaili is proving them right. At the recent World Athletics under-20 championships in Nairobi, she won the silver with 6.59m with a slightly helpful wind, missing the gold by just a centimetre.

Shaili is still a work in progress and Bobby believes that the young girl would grow up to be the country’s first seven-metre jumper in about three years.

“At 17, Shaili is now at a stage where Anju was at 22,” said Bobby who has painstakingly moulded the rough stone into a sparkling diamond; into one of the world’s best junior jumpers.

“In Anju’s case, I had to do a lot of corrections, in Shaili's case being a fresh starter, it made it easier. She doesn’t have to unlearn things. She is a quick learner and she is very fast and that gives her a natural advantage. She is something like 60 per cent complete.

READ: Shaili Singh: A story of grit and determination

And more than anything, Shaili — who hails from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh — is a fighter, one who doesn’t fear the big stage. It could be her tough upbringing, she was bought up by her mother, a single parent and a tailor, who toiled hard to keep Shaili and her other two siblings going.

Shaili is one of the 13 girls, coached by Bobby and mentored by Anju, in Bengaluru’s Anju Bobby Centre of Excellence, with the Sports Authority of India, the Sports Ministry and the Athletics Federation of India playing a supporting role.

Abundance of talent

In Bobby, the centre has a coach who has produced two World Championship medallists — he had guided his wife Anju George to the long jump bronze at the 2003 Paris Worlds. And now that he has proved himself again with Shaili and also has a few more girls — including triple jumper Deepanshi Singh — who could come good in the next few years, the Anju Bobby academy should be offered all support and funding to ensure that more quality jumpers emerge from there. The country has a lot to gain from that.

Shaili will be a busy girl next year with the World Championships, the under-20 Worlds, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games all lined up within the space of a couple of months.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra's Tokyo Olympic gold appears to have inspired the athletes at the under-20 Worlds as India finished with three medals — two silvers and a bronze — the first time the country was winning multiple medals at the event though it had a gold each in the last two editions, through Neeraj’s triumph in 2016 and Hima Das’ 400m title in 2018.

However, it must also be mentioned that some of the top countries like USA, Britain, Australia, China, Germany and Japan skipped the under-20 Worlds owing to COVID-19. That also removed a round from many events including the men's triple jump and women's 4x400m relay which were direct finals.

While Shaili is being nicely prepared for the big world, it will be interesting to see how the others shape up.

A boost for the quartermile

Creditable show: Priya Mohan, who won the bronze medal in the 4x400m mixed relay, with Shaili. The Bengaluru girl had missed the Tokyo Olympics mixed relay team as she was not a national camper and her fourth place in the individual 400m in Nairobi in a personal best 52.77s, will certainly give her confidence.   -  PTI

 

Priya Mohan, the country’s fastest quartermiler this year and a member of the bronze-winning Indian mixed relay team in Nairobi, could be in the thick of things in the 4x400m women’s and mixed relay teams next year if she continues her impressive run and returns to the national camp.

The Bengaluru girl had missed the Tokyo Olympics mixed relay team as she was not a national camper and her fourth place in the individual 400m in Nairobi in a personal best 52.77s, will certainly give her confidence as she takes on the country’s star quartermilers like V. K. Vismaya, Jisna Mathew and M. R. Poovamma when they return fresher, fitter and faster next season.

Promising youngster: Amit Khatri (right) also looked very impressive while taking the men’s 10,000m race walk silver in Nairobi and it will be nice to watch how the 17-year-old from Rohtak handles the transition to the 20km in the open men’s category   -  PTI

 

Amit Khatri also looked very impressive while taking the men’s 10,000m race walk silver in Nairobi and it will be nice to watch how the 17-year-old from Rohtak handles the transition to the 20km in the open men’s category.

Will Donald be different?

The country’s triple jumpers have been very inconsistent the last few years. Even the juniors who emerged in the last few years, like Kamal Raj, Praveen Chitravel and Jay Shah Pradeep, have had ups and downs.

Former international Mohammed Nizamuddin, who had coached former Asian junior champion Kamal Raj to the fifth place at the 2018 under-20 Worlds in Finland, is also behind Donald Makimairaj’s rise.

READ: Historic mixed relay bronze for India

Donald, from Tiruchi who has been coached by Nizamuddin in Coimbatore, missed a triple jump bronze in Nairobi by a mere three centimetres and in the process came up with a personal-best 15.82m.

He looks promising and has good speed too and if handled with care, he could make a mark in bigger circuits.

A lot was expected from javelin thrower Kunwer Ajai Raj Singh Rana but he seemed to be under pressure and finished fifth. There are very promising javelin throwers like Sahil Silwal, who was fourth in the 2018 under-20 Worlds and now, at 20, is now an 80m thrower. With Neeraj showing the way and with good exposure trips expected in the event, there could be some very impressive performances from young throwers like Ajai, Sahil and Jay Kumar in the next few years.