India’s two best long jumpers have been preparing for the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games at different ends of the world. Premkumar Kumaravel, the 21-year-old national record holder, has been training in UCLA under American jumps coach Jamie Nieto, a high jumper.
He is one of the Indian athletes who had the good fortune to have a sponsor, which allows him the luxury of following a tailor-made programme.
Mayookha Johny has been training in Bangalore instead of opting to be taken under the wing of none other than world record holder Mike Powell. Instead, she has put her faith in her long-time coach Shyam Kumar, a former national record holder.
On Thursday, the opening day of the 54th National Inter-state Athletics Meet, Premkumar and Mayookha experienced despair and joy respectively at the long jump pit of the PAC Stadium.
Premkumar failed to qualify for the men’s long jump final, while Mayookha met the qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games and is now guaranteed a ticket to Glasgow.
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Premkumar’s national record stands at 8.09m and during training in UCLA he had crossed the 7.70 m mark on three occasions in open meets. The AFI had set the qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games at 8 m, a tough ask given that most jumpers were entering their first major event of the season. Yet, Premkumar was tipped to make the cut.
When the qualifying round of the men’s long jump began it was 9.30 am but with temperatures hovering around 36 degrees Celsius even early in the day, athletes were competing in demanding conditions.
Premkumar had only recently overcome a bout of chicken pox. One doesn’t know if he was still feeling the effects or if he just had a poor day, but Premkumar was far from his best. He fouled his first two attempts and in the third produced only a seven-metre jump to ultimately finish only 15th in qualifying.
It was under the floodlights late in the evening that Mayookha produced her best jump of the day — 6.56 metres, well past the qualifying mark of 6.44.
There were indications that Mayookha was in good form because she had registered a jump of 6.72 metres during the Karnataka state meet recently. However, as she could not secure entry into a major international event recently, including the Diamond League, she was not tested before arriving in Lucknow.
Abraham, Ashwini advance
Defending Asian Games 400 metre hurdles champions in the men’s and women’s category, Joseph Abraham (52.20) and Ashwini Akkunji respectively, advanced to the final of their respective events while Tintu Luka (2:27.48) also progressed to the final of the women’s 800 metres.
Results (Finals): Women’s 5,000m: O.P Jaisha (PUN) 15:57.05, 2. Suriya (TN) 16:24.26, 3. Kavita Tungar (MAH) 16:44.96; Men’s 5000m: 1 Indrajeet Patel (UP) 14:02.84, 2. Rahul Kumar Pal (MAH) 14:06.72, 3 Nitender Singh (UK) 14:09.54; Women’s shot put: 1. Manpreet Kaur (PUN) 15.93m, Manpreet Kaur (PUN) 14.77m, Saraswathy (TN) 12.73m.