Khelo India Youth Games: Ritesh races to victory, new high for Saliha

Saliha K H demolished the competition in girls U-17 high jump with her first jump, clearing 1.68m for a career best leap.

Ritesh Ohre (455) of Madhya Pradesh runs to cross the finish line.   -  PTI

Ritesh Ohire hit the tape at eight minutes, 56.12 seconds to win the 3000m gold at the Khelo India Youth Games athletics competition. He was followed home by silver medallist Ajay (8:56.88) and bronze medallist Atul Gamit (8:56.94) in the boys U-17 event. The energy-sapping distance draws the runners out in a line, separating the strong runners from the strugglers.

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The field of 12 split into a batch of four, the winner from Madhya Pradesh timed his kick to edge out rivals from Haryana and Gujarat respectively in a desperate run to a close finish, with little to separate the front-runner and rivals ready and willing to fight for the gold medal and probable entry into the shortlist of talent spotters from Sports Authority of India watching track and field action.

Loose-limbed Saliha K H demolished the competition in girls U-17 high jump with her first jump, clearing 1.68m for a career best leap and the KIYC gold medal was in her backpack. The Kerala athlete’s earlier best was 1.66 at a meet in New Delhi. Teammate Meera Biju finished joint third after a 1.60m leap (along with Haryana’s Khushi). Tamil Nadu’s Gobika K (1.64) bagged the silver.

Ritesh’s confidence came through in his finishing kick, Saliha just went out and enjoyed doing what she loves the most. Long distance runners striding neck-to-neck at the finish is trhilling, a jumper producing a career high at the start is interesting. “I was asked to try out the high jump by my school coach in seventh class and I enjoyed training and competing,” said the Canco School student from Thrissur. “Total support from parents keeps me going.”

These two U-17 winners stand a chance of getting government support for eight years, worth Rs 5 lakh annually, in case spotted by talent scouts for further training in an athletics academy shortlisted by SAI. Saliha is not thinking too far ahead on the day of triumph, like other teenagers she wants to enjoy the happy memory and leave her career decision to parents.

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