Shaili Singh and Kunwer Ajai Raj Singh are among India’s 27-member track-and-field squad for next week's World Under-20 Championships. The event is scheduled to be held from August 17 to 21 in Nairobi, Kenya, and the team will head out on August 14.
The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is focusing on securing podium finishes in multiple events. Among them, men’s javelin throw and women’s long jump hold the most promise. Kamal Ali, head coach of the junior development group, said:
“Shaili Singh of Uttar Pradesh in women’s long jump and Kunwer Ajai Raj Singh of Punjab in men’s javelin are the two athletes who have a good chance of winning medals in their respective events at the World U-20 Championships in Nairobi.”
Commenting on Shaili and Kunwer's recent performances, Ali said:
“Shaili’s season best of 6.48m is the U-20 national record in women’s long jump. Kunwer Ajai Raj has a season's best of 74.75m. If the athletes are able to repeat their performance, they stand a good chance of winning medals at the World U-20 Championships.”
Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra won gold in the 2016 edition of the World U-20 Championships in Poland. At the 2018 edition, in Finland, India’s Sahil Silwal finished fourth while Arshdeep Singh failed to qualify for the final of the same event.
On the performance of men’s javelin throwers at the 2018 edition, the coach conceded that there was a gap. But he expressed hope of Kunwer winning a medal in Nairobi.
“There is a junior development plan in place. Some of the youngsters are taking time to showcase their talent.”
However, Kunwer Ajai Raj Singh hasn’t been consistent this year. At the junior national meet in Bhopal in January he threw 66.38m. In February, he finished seventh at the Guwahati National Junior Meet. His best throw was 65m.
However, Kunwer managed to cross the 70m mark in the junior national meet held earlier this month in Sangrur, Punjab. The event served as the final selection trials for the World Championships in Kenya.
Coach Ali is also hoping for a good performance in the women’s 400m sprint. He's banking on Priya Mohan of Karnataka and Summy of Haryana.
In 2018, India’s Hima Das won gold in the women’s 400m. She was the first Indian athlete to win a medal in a track event at the championships.
Commenting on their performance, Ali said:
“Priya and Summy clocked sub-54 seconds in the junior national championships held earlier this month in Sangrur, Punjab. It has raised the hope of a medal in the 400m event in Kenya.”
The AFI is also hoping for good results in the mixed relay event, introduced from this edition. The junior development coach said:
“We have good 400m runners. It’s new event. Hope our team clicks in Nairobi.”
According to Ali, the Kenya-bound Indian squad attended a two-week camp in Patiala. Their main focus was to fine-tune their fitness. He said:
“The camp was just to maintain the fitness of the athletes. There was no major change in training.”
You might also like: Punjab's Kunwer Rana bags gold in U-17 javelin