This was the country’s best ever showing in this competition.
The World Athletics U-20 Championships is a tournament that has the reputation of creating future stars. The recently concluded edition took place at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Athletes from 114 nations participated in the prestigious competition.
Athletics in India recently received a major boost after Neeraj Chopra’s historic gold medal triumph at the Tokyo Olympics. The upcoming generation of young Indian athletes continued the momentum. They delivered several memorable performances and it turned out to be the nation’s most successful campaign ever. A total of three medals were picked up, which meant that India finished in the 22nd position in the medal table (tied with Greece). India also won the most number of medals by any Asian nation at the tournament.
Let’s take a look at India’s finest performers from the 2021 World Athletics U-20 Championships:
5. Priya Mohan
The country’s fastest woman quarter-miler this season came into the competition with a burgeoning reputation. Priya Mohan had won the 400m title during the National Senior Inter-State Athletics Championships held in July in Patiala. She had clocked a timing of 53.29 seconds, giving stiff competition to even the senior athletes of the country.
At the World Athletics U-20 Championships, she delivered performances of high calibre. She first guided the Indian mixed relay team to a bronze medal finish in the 4x400m race. After that, it was time for her to show her ability in the individual event. Mohan came close to a medal in the women’s 400m final, eventually finishing fourth with a new personal best.
A terrific late surge from the Indian put her in the mix in the final stretch of the race. But, her competitors held their positions ahead. It was a personal best of 52.77 seconds for the Indian girl, improving from the 53.29 seconds set earlier this year. This was the same event that saw Hima Das create history in 2018 by winning the gold medal. The ace Indian sprinter was quick to heap praise on Mohan. She remarked that this is a “great start and is just the beginning.” No doubt, Priya Mohan has a bright future ahead of her and she will only get better in the years to come.
4. Donald Makimairaj
The biggest revelation for Indian athletics in the tournament was Donald Makimairaj. The triple jumper was a relatively unknown face. He did manage to win a silver medal at the U-17 Khelo India event. However, his performance in Nairobi will now make people stand up and take notice.
The 19-year-old fell just short of the bronze medal in the men’s triple jump, as he finished fourth with a personal best jump of 15.82m. The boy from Tamil Nadu has taken rapid strides in the last few years. Makimairaj showcased his talent on the big stage under tough and windy conditions. It will be interesting to see how his career pans out in the coming years.
3. Indian mixed relay team
The Indian mixed relay team had set the wheels in motion on the opening day itself. The event was making its debut at the competition. The quartet of Bharath Sridhar, Priya Mohan, Summy and Kapil gave India another famous moment to cherish in athletics. The Indian team showed maturity beyond their age to stave off a strong Jamaican challenge in the race. In doing so, they grabbed a bronze medal finish for the country.
The season-best timing of 3:20.60 of the junior team wasn’t way off the mark set by the senior squad at the Tokyo Olympics (3:19.93). The biggest takeaway from the achievement is India’s proven bench strength, which is now ready to graduate to a higher level. Slowly but surely, Indian athletes are beginning to leave a mark at major international track events.
2. Amit Khatri
Race walking is not an event that instantly comes to mind when you talk about Indian athletics. However, the Indian race walkers had a promising campaign at the Tokyo Olympics. It pointed towards a bright future in the sport. That future is Amit Khatri. The boy from Rohtak won a historic silver medal for India at the World Athletics U-20 Championships. Infact, it was India’s first major medal in race walking at a global competition.
India is not considered a powerhouse when it becomes to endurance events. However, the scenario changes with the emergence of Amit Khatri. He had earlier broken the national U-20 record, by clocking 40:40.97 seconds at the Federation Cup. In Nairobi, Khatri delivered a marvellous performance. He went toe-to-toe against home-favourite Heristone Wanyoni.
It must be noted that Nairobi is at an altitude of around 1800m from sea level. The high altitude conditions in the Kenyan capital affected Khatri’s performance as he struggled for breath during the race. Despite this, he braved the odds to grab a historic medal for India. It was also Amit Khatri’s first international competition. It just goes on to show what a mammoth achievement it is!
1. Shaili Singh
Shaili Singh had sent the country buzzing when she achieved a distance of 6.48m at the National Senior Inter-State Athletics Championships earlier in 2021. That mark set a new U-20 national record. At the World Athletics U-20 Championships, Shaili Singh proved why she is so highly rated.
She offered a glimpse of what she is capable of, as she claimed the women’s long jump silver with a personal best 6.59m, missing the gold by just one centimetre to Sweden’s Maja Askag. After two mediocre 6.34m jumps, the 17-year-old produced the big one that bettered her personal best by 11cm. That carried her to the top of the pack briefly, before European champion Askag came up with the 6.60.
Shaili Singh is coached by Anju Bobby George and her husband Robert. After seeing her win the silver, the legendary Indian athlete expressed her happiness on seeing her progress over the years. No wonder, with such a mentor spurring her on, Shaili Singh has all the ingredients to be a future Olympic star for India.