When he walked out of the Tirunelveli SDAT Centre in a huff around two years ago, Nikhil Chittarasu’s promising high jump career suddenly seemed to be in big trouble.
The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu Centre, where coach Frank Paul Jayaseelan is churning out champions, is the country’s leading high jump nursery. Since Nikhil’s parents are settled in Tirunelveli, it was very convenient.
But I had a lot of problems with some seniors there, so I didn’t want to continue,” said Nikhil, the other day.
After much persuasion from his father P. Chittarasu, Nikhil was taken to the Tiruchi SDAT Centre where former National record-holder Nallusamy Annavi and his wife Suganthi, a former athlete, began to guide him.
On Thursday, the Alappuzha-born Tamil Nadu jumper broke the under-20 National record of Bengal’s Hari Shanker Roy with a personal best 2.17m at the National inter-zonal championship in Chandigarh. And it appears to be just the beginning of a very bright series.
“I almost crossed 2.20 with my next height but my ankle touched the bar and brought it down. That was my 16th jump of the championship, it was also hot, and I was tired,” said the 19-year-old just before taking the train home from Chandigarh.
“I’m sure I’ll jump over 2.25m and take Hari Shanker’s senior National record by the end of this year or early next year.”
Annavi, who looks after the technical aspects of Nikhil’s high jump, feels the youngster is capable of doing 2.28 and more within the next couple of years. “Sometimes, I think he can do it much faster, probably within a year too.”
Anything above 2.20 will put him among the world’s top 10 in this year’s junior list. A 2.21 would have fetched him a bronze at last year’s Junior World in Poland and 2.23 would have brought him a medal at the last Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and a top five finish at the recent World championship in Berlin.
“We’re looking at something like 2.25 which should bring a Commonwealth Games medal in New Delhi next year,” said Annavi.
Set for big things
T.P. Ouseph, who coached former Asian champion high jumper Bobby Aloysius and former World championship long jump medallist Anju Bobby George during their early years, feels Nikhil is set for bigger things.
“He will create history. His body is proportionate and his technique is good. If he stays focused, he is capable of doing something like 2.30m and do well at world-level competitions in a few years,” said Ouseph, a former National coach for jumps.
Olympian Suresh Babu, however, struck a cautious note. “Let’s not rush at things,” said the former Asian Games long jump champion who was also a top high jumper in his heyday. “By the time of the Commonwealth Games next year, he will be India’s best jumper. Within a year, he can achieve 2.25 but beyond that, every centimetre will take time.”
Nikhil’s technique is good, says Suresh Babu, also a former Commonwealth Games medallist. “The greatest scope for him is to improve his speed. Without being fast, he can’t do 2.17m but he has to be faster in the last two to three steps before take-off which can bring big results.”
Nikhil is already troubling a lot of seniors in the national circuit but he is aware of his problems on the runway.
“Often it varies from jump to jump, from competition to competition. I have to bring it all together, make the run-up consistent and improve my arm action. If I improve these things, I know I can go a lot higher.”
Well, once he irons out the problems on the runway, it will be a smooth take-off to big time.