Mayookha makes sound start

Kerala athlete bags long jump gold but falls short of Olympic qualification mark

Kerala’s Mayookha Johny leaps to the long jump gold on the opening day of the Inter-State Athletics Championships. DH Photo / Kishor Kumar Bolar

Technique, though wasn’t her strongest ally on the day and even though the gold landed firmly in her pocket with a meet record to boot, Mayookha fell tantalisingly short of her main target at this meet.

On the opening day of the 51st Inter-State Athletics Championships, Mayookha’s quest for an Olympic berth and her battle for the top spot with MA Prajusha were the main points of interest. While she towered above Prajusha, the qualification mark stayed a touch away -- two centimetres away to be precise.

Mayookha secured the gold with her first-round effort of 6.63 metres, leaving Prajusha (6.47M), way behind and bettering Anju George’s meet record by a good 10 centimetres. Her decent series on the day seemed to show she was on the right path and the jumper herself didn’t seem to be too bothered by the narrow miss.

“This was my first competition with the full approach. There were some glitches in my technique but I am confident of sorting it out,” said Mayookha. “The Asian Championships is my next target, perhaps the mark will come there. I know I have a 6.65M jump in me,” she added, while her coach Syam Kumar wasn’t pleased at all with his ward’s show. “I was targeting 6.75, the ‘A’ qualification mark but she is still working on her technique,” he said.

After starting with 6.63, Mayookha had jumps of 6.54 and 6.30 before fouling her next two attempts. She closed out the competition with a 6.60M leap -- her hair touching the sand and depriving her of a better mark. Prajusha, meanwhile, came close to her best of 6.50M, a decent display by her own admission at this stage of the season. The long distance duel between Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut didn’t really set the track ablaze, with the duo preferring a slow approach in the 10000M final. The race followed a predictable pattern, with the two exchanging lead several times. Kavita, winner in the Indian segment of the World 10K last week, led going into the final lap, with Preeja following her like a shadow.

The Asian Games champion then waited and waited before unleashing a kick, with about 120 metres left. Kavita held on till the final 50 metres but Preeja surged ahead at that point and pulled clear to win in convincing fashion. Her time -- 34:33:48 to Kavita’s 34:33.64 -- though was well outside her national record of 31:50.47 set at the Guangzhou Asian Games last year. “For the work we have put in now, we can only run in the 33-plus range,” said an exhausted Preeja.

Meanwhile, Asian Games hurdles champion AC Ashwini made her appearance in the 400M heats in the morning, qualifying for the final with a 53.57-second timing. National record holder Manjeet Kaur also made it through, clocking 55.94.

Results:
Men: 10000M: Kheta Ram (Rajasthan) 29:20.35, 1; Suresh Patel (Uttar Pradesh) 29:25.42, 2; V L Dange (Maharashtra) 30:10.45, 3.
Pole vault:
Discus throw: Arjun (Delhi) 53.56 metres, 1; Sunil Kumar (Jharkhand) 51.23, 2; Vikas Poonia (Rajasthan) 49.17, 3.
Women: 10000M: Preeja Sreedharan (Kerala) 34:33.48, 1; Kavita Raut (Maharashtra) 34:33.64, 2; L Surya (Tamil Nadu) 35:27.18, 3.
Long jump: Mayookha Johny (Kerala) 6.63 metres, 1; M A Prajusha (Kerala) 6.47, 2; Shalu Chaudhary (Delhi) 6.24, 3.
Hammer throw: Manju Bala (Rajasthan) 55.94 metres, 1; Anitha Abraham (Kerala) 54.88, 2; Sarita (Gujarat) 52.66, 3.
Javelin throw: Saraswathi (Tamil Nadu) 52.00 metres, 1; Suman Devi (Uttar Pradesh) 46.95, 2; Rupinder Kaur (Punjab) 46.11, 3.

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