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First major test for long jumper Shaili

She is the under-18 World No. 2 this year, the u-20 Indian record holder and the National champion in women’s section.

And the World Athletics (u-20) championships, which begin in Nairobi on Wednesday, will be long jumper Shaili Singh’s first major test.

With a 6.48m effort at the inter-State Nationals in June, the 17-year-old is the fifth-best jumper in the Worlds’ entry list but she appears capable of much more.

“She is excited seeing the people here and the spirit but it all depends on the day,” said Robert Bobby George, who has been coaching Shaili in Bengaluru for more three three years, from Nairobi. “It’s her first international meet, I need a personal best from her.”

High expectations

For Bobby too, it will be the first big test in nearly 20 years. He had coached his wife Anju George to the long jump bronze at the 2003 Worlds and in Shaili’s case, it will be a bigger challenge as expectations will be high.

Sweden’s European champion Maja Askag (season best 6.80), Spain’s Tessy Ebosele (6.63) and Italy’s Arianna Battistella (6.55) are some of the athletes Shaili will be watching out for.

Indians have won just two golds at the u-20 Worlds and they came in the last two editions through javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra (2016) and quartermiler Hima Das (2018).

With Neeraj claiming gold at the Tokyo Olympics, the focus will be on the two Indian javelin throwers, u-20 Federation Cup champion Kunwer Ajai Raj Singh Rana (SB 74.75m) — who had topped the 2018 Youth Olympics Asian qualifiers in Bangkok — and Jay Kumar (72.29). Ajai is the third-best thrower in the entry list where Ukraine’s under-20 European champion Artur Felfner begins as favourite.

Opportunity

For Priya Mohan, the country’s fastest quartermiler this year (53.29s) who missed the Olympics as she was not a national camper, Nairobi offers a wonderful opportunity to improve her timing with athletes like Nigeria’s Imaobong Nse Uko (51.70) and Poland’s Kornelia Lesiewics (52.02) in the fray.

With the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games lined up next year, she will have a lot to look forward to.

Neeraj’s breakthrough gold in Tokyo should also inspire the rest in the 27-member team to pull off a surprise or two.

The five-day meet will offer a peep into the future and youngsters like sprinters Godson Brume and Tina Clayton, middle-distance runner Diribe Welteji and high jumper Yonathan Kapitolnik could be big names in the next few years.

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