Nairobi, August 22: Shaili Singh claimed the women’s Long Jump silver medal in the World Athletics U20 Championships here on Sunday. Her slight wind-aided effort of 6.59m was only 1cm short of the gold medal jump by Sweden’s Maja Askag but her silver medal ensured that Indian athletics continues to showcase the progress it has been making.
Until this edition, India had won a total of four medals in the World Athletics Junior Championships, with bronze medals for Discus Thrower Seema Antil (2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (2014) and gold medals for Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra (2016) and 400m runner Hima Das (2018). India has nearly matched that tally here.
Shaili Singh’s was India’s third medal in the World Athletics U20 Championships here, coming after the bronze won by the Mixed Team in the 4x400m Relay and the silver by Amit Khatri in the men’s 10,000m Race Walk. India finished 21st on the medal table, aware that a gold would have lifted it to the top 15.
Having started with two jumps of 6.34m, Shaili Singh shot into the lead after three rounds when she leapt to 6.59m, with the aid of a slight tail wind. But Sweden’s Maja Askag stole that position with her fourth jump that measured just 1cm more. The Indian tried hard but fouled two attempts and then had a 6.37m on her final try to regain pole position.
Earlier, Donald Makirmairaj was in bronze medal position when he logged in 15.70m on his second try but was soon crowded out of the podium reckoning. He fought back with a personal best leap of 15.82m on his fifth attempt, 6cm more than his previous best. Jumping into a slight headwind, he finished just 3cm short of Frenchman Simon Gore’s bronze medal winning effort.
Gallant efforts by Summy and Priya Habbanathahalli Mohan in the second and anchor legs lifted the Indian women’s 4x400m relay squad from fifth place to a creditable fourth in a time of 3:40.45. They both had sub-54 second split times, being credited with 53.75 and 53.38, and tried to balance the efforts of Payal Vohra (57.28) and Rajitha Kunja (56.04).
Ankita Dhyani finished sixth in the gruelling women’s 5000m in a time of 17:17.68, as she bravely took the challenge presented to distance runners by the altitude of Nairobi. She stuck with the leaders – the only non-African in the bunch of six – till the 3000m mark.
Ankita finished in the top six after the disqualification of Melknat Wudu (Ethiopia) and Prisc Chesang (Uganda) who broke the beam in the second and third places but had stepped inside the track with about 1300m left.