Murali Sreeshankar became the first Indian male long jumper to qualify for World Athletics Championships finals while 3000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable also expectedly made the grade on the first day of the competitions in Eugene.
Sreeshankar, who had entered the championships as a dark horse for a medal at second spot in the season’s top list, had a best jump of exactly 8m, which he did in his second attempt, to finish second in qualification round Group B and seventh overall.
Anju Bobby George was the first Indian to make it to the World Championships long jump finals and first to win a medal — bronze in 2003 edition in Paris.
Two other Indians in the fray, Jeswin Aldrin, who was cleared for the championships despite failing to impress the national selectors in two rounds of trials, and Muhammed Anees Yahiya could not make it to the finals after finishing ninth and 11th in Group A qualification round with best jumps of 7.79m and 7.73m respectively.
Those who achieved 8.15m or the 12 best performers from across the two groups qualify for the finals to be held on Sunday (6:50 a.m. IST).
The 23-year-old Sreeshankar has been a consistent performer with his 8.36m jump at the Federation Cup in April, followed by 8.31m and 8.23m at an event in Greece and National Inter-State Championships respectively.
Only Japan’s Yuki Hashioka (8.18m) and Marquis Dendy (8.16m) of U.S.A. crossed the 8.15m mark during the qualification round of two groups.
Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou (8.03m) of Greece, who won Group B qualification round ahead of Sreeshankar, world season leader Simon Ehammer (8.09m) of Switzerland and Cuba’s Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Maykel Masso (7.93m) were also among those who qualified for the finals.
The 27-year-old Sable, who had also qualified for the 3000m steeplechase final during 2019 edition in Doha, finished third in heat number 3 clocking 8:18.75 to qualify for the finals to be held on Monday (early morning Tuesday in India).
He led till around midway the race before Hailemariyam Amare (8:18.34) of Ethiopia and Evan Jager (8:18.44) of USA took over him.
The top three in each heat and the next six fastest runners across the three heats qualify for the final. Sable has been in a national record breaking spree in recent times with the latest being the 8:12.48 effort while finishing fifth at the prestigious Diamond League Meeting in Rabat last month.
Toor pulls out, poor show by walkers Priyanka, Sandeep
Asian record holder shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, however, pulled out of his event due to a groin injury sustained four days ago after reaching USA. He tried a couple of practice throws before the event but decided to skip the event as the pain did not subside.
“I had this groin injury four days back after reaching Chula Vista [U.S.A.]. I had a couple of warm-up throws to see if the pain is still there. I still felt the pain while throwing, so I decided to pull out of the event,” Toor, who has ‘No Mark [NM]’ against his name, told PTI.
It was disappointment in the men’s and women’s 20km race walk events with Sandeep Kumar and Priyanka Goswami, both national record holders, performing well below their best.
Goswami, who opened India’s campaign in the championships, finished 34th with a time of 1:39:42 out of the 36 athletes, who finished the race.
Goswami has a season’s best of 1:38:10 and personal best of 1:28:45.
Peru’s Kimberly Garcia Leon (1:26:58) won the gold while Katarzyna Zdzieblo (1:27:31) of Poland and Shijie Qieyang (1:27:56) of China took silver and bronze respectively.
The 36-year-old Kumar was even worse at 40th place out of 43 athletes who finished the race, clocking 1:31:58. He has a season’s best of 1:22:05 and personal best of 1:20:16.
Japan’s Toshikazu Yamanishi (1:19:07) and Koki Ikeda (1:19:14) took the gold and silver respectively while Perseus Karlstrom (1:19:18) of Sweden won the bronze.
Parul Chaudhary will compete in women’s 3000m steeplechase later in the day (11:20 p.m. IST).
Besides the men’s long jump finals featuring Sreeshankar, Madari Palliyalil Jabir (men’s 400m hurdles heats) is the other Indian to compete on Sunday (2 a.m. IST).