Up and coming long jumper Shaili Singh lived up to the expectations as she made it to the finals after topping the qualification round with an effort of 6.40m in the U-20 World Athletics Championships on Friday. The 17-year-old Shaili, considered one of the brightest upcoming stars in Indian athletics, achieved her best of the day in her third and final jump after starting off with a 6.34m in Group B. Her second jump recorded 5.98m. She was one of three long jumpers who secured automatic qualification, set at 6.35m, for the final.
She would have made the grade on the strength of her opening effort of 6.34m but chose to strain every sinew on her last attempt to gain the psychological edge going into Sunday's final. Shaili is considered a medal prospect but the final is expected to be a tough affair with some of the world's best making the cut. Sweden's 18-year-old Maja Askag, who had won the European U-20 title last month, qualified as second best overall after winning Group A with a best jump of 6.39m. Lissandra Maysa Campos (6.36m) of Brazil, Shantae Foreman (6.27m) of Jamaica and Mariia Horielova (6.24m) of Ukraine, who qualified as third, fourth and fifth respectively, have jumped beyond 6.40m this season.
Shaili, who had won the long jump event at the National (Senior) Inter-State Championships in June with an effort of 6.48m, is the current U-18 world No. 2 and U-20 national record holder. The Jhansi-born athlete was raised by a single mother who worked as a tailor. She currently trains at the academy of celebrated long jumper Anju Bobby George in Bengaluru. She is coached by Anju's husband Bobby George.
In men's javelin throw final, Kunwar Ajai Raj Singh Rana raised hopes of winning a medal briefly with his second best throw of the year before finishing fifth. The 19-year-old Rana rose to the bronze medal position with his 73.68m fourth round throw, his best of the day, but Nigeria's Chnecherem Nnamdi regained the third place with a 74.48m response. In the fifth round, Poland's Eryk Kolodziejczak also bettered the Indian's best throw to nudge ahead of Rana to fourth place. Another Indian in the fray, Jay Kumar took the sixth place with a best effort of 70.74m.
In other events, Nandini Agasara made it to the women's 100m hurdles semifinals after finishing fourth in her heat in 14.18 seconds. Though she clocked a faster 14.16 seconds in the semifinals, her journey ended there as she was sixth in her semifinal heats. Shanmuga Srinivas Nalubothu clocked 21.33 seconds in the men's 200m heats -- his second fastest time over the distance this year -- but that was not good enough to take him to the semifinals.
In the men's 3000m steeplechase, Sunil Joliya sought to match the pace of the front runners early on in the heats but finished 11th in 9:49.23 in his maiden international race. Tejas Shirse finished fifth in his 110m hurdles heat race with a time of 13.87 seconds to make an early exit while Pooja crashed out in women's 1500m as she ended 11th in her heat in a time of 4:37.85.