World Athletics U20: Shaili wins silver in long jump (lead)

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Nairobi, Aug 22 (IANS) India’s Shaili Singh bagged a silver medal with a superb leap of 6.59 metres, missing the gold medal agonizingly by a mere 1 centimetre in womens long jump, as the country ended its campaign in World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, with two silver and one bronze medal. This is India’s best-ever performance in the junior world championships.

Shaili, who came into the final with the best performance in the qualifying stage with an effort of 6.48 metres, improved on her personal best with a superb effort of 6.59 in the women’s long jump final. However, she lost out on the gold medal to Sweden’s Maja Askag, the European junior champion, who cleared 6.60 metres. Mariia Horielova of Ukraine took the bronze medal with a season best effort of 6.50 metres.

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Saili’s silver medal was the third medal for India in the World Athletics U20 Championships 2021 adding to the silver won by Amit Khatri in the men’s 10,000 metres race walk and the bronze by the 4×400 Mixed Relay team.

This was India’s best medal haul ever in the World U20 Athletics Championships and the last couple of weeks after their best-ever performance of seven medals including a gold, in the Tokyo Olympics, augurs well for Indian athletics as javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra had won the first gold medal by an Indian in the Olympics in the Japanese capital.

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The three medals in Nairobi helped India finish joint 21st with Greece in the medal table as hosts Kenya dominated at home with 16 medals including eight gold medals. Finland were a distinct second with five medals including four gold, the same as Nigeria who also had three bronze medals but had to settle for the third position as Finland had also won a silver medal.

The 17-year-old Shaili, coached by former long jumper Anju Bobby George and her husband Robert Bobby George at Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bangalore, had to be satisfied with the silver medal despite a brilliant performance in Nairobi during which she improved on her personal best twice, once to qualify for the final (6.48) and then in the final — 6.59 meters.

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In the final on Sunday, Shaili had taken the lead with a leap of 6.59m on her third jump and it looked that India would eventually win the gold medal that it has been craving for the last couple of days, But Sweden’s Maja cleared 6.60 on her fourth jump and took the gold medal as Shaili fouled her next two attempts and could manage only 6.37 metres in the sixth and final jump. Maja had also won the women’s triple jump gold earlier in the championships.

Shaili had started with an identical 6.34 in her first two jumps but came up with the big leap in the next attempt to jump into the lead.

Her brilliant performance excited Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Chopra as he tweeted: “Many congratulations, Shaili! You came so close to Gold today, and I’m sure you have a long way to go (emoticon: Flexed biceps). Congratulations to

@anjubobbygeorg1 ma’am for your mentorship and guidance to Shaili (emoticon: Folded hands).”

Also on Sunday, the women’s 4×400 relay team missed the bronze as it finished fourth with a season’s best timing of 3:40.45 in the final. Payal Vohra, Summy, Rajitha Kunja, and Priya Mohan comprised the Indian quartet in the 4×400 relay that had conceded a big lead after two legs as it finished behind Nigeria (3:31.46), Jamaica (3:36.57), and Italy (3:37.18) as the Nigerians won by a big margin after taking an early lead.

Among the other Indians on Sunday, Ankita finished eighth among 10 participants in the women’s 5000m metres final with a timing of 17:17.68. Ethiopia bagged gold and silver medals as Mizan Alem and Mizan Alem finished in 16:05.61 and 16:13.16 minutes with Prisca Chesang of Uganda took bronze in 16:31.78 minutes.

–IANS

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