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Taking the leap

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Athlete Akhil Francis is blazing his way to the top

When the Boys Sports Company (BSC), attached to the Artillery Centre, Golconda, on one of its talent scouting missions to Kerala, picked up Akhil Francis from Perambra, Kozhikode district, few would have foreseen how quickly he'd live up to the faith they had reposed in his talent.

From clocking 59.70 seconds in the 400 metre hurdles in the all India inter BSC championships at Roorke in 2007, he stunned all competition with a superlative 51.90 effort at the recent junior national athletics championships at Warangal, rewriting Kerala native Shijil Varghese's record of 52.52. In the process, he had lopped off nearly eight seconds in just two years!

Akhil believes his sporting success was streamlined by former Federation Cup 400 m winner and coach Ajimon C.A., with full backing from Army Sports Battery Commander, Lt. Col. A.N. Tivary, Artillery Centre Commandant, Brigadier A.S. Lathwal, and mentor and well-wisher Praveen Krishna. They started him off in the under 14 years category with the triathlon, that included long, high jumps and 100 metres. In the under 16 section, he was shifted to pentathlon that had 100 m hurdles, long, high jumps, shot put and 800 metres.

Subsequently, he showed promise in the half mile (800 metres), hurdles and long jump, all contributing to what has now become his core event. Clearing the barricades came to him smoothly, paving the way for his natural progression to the 400 metre hurdles. Between Roorke and Warangal, he timed 54.1 seconds at the south zone junior championships at Puducherry last year. At Kochi, in the next edition of the same event three months ago, he touched the tape in 52.7 seconds. In the junior inter zonal at Chandigarh, in the same month, he again struck gold with 52.9.

A. JOSEPH ANTONY

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