Asian Games 2018: 5 things you need to know about Neena Varakil, India's silver medalist in women's long jump
The Indian contingent's purple run in the track and field events continued as Neena Varakil, who competed in the women's long jump final clinched the silver medal with a jump of 6.51m, finishing in the second spot behind gold medal winner Bhui Thao from Vietnam.
The long jumper's silver-medal finish made her the first Indian in twelve years to clinch a medal in the long jump event, after Anju Bobby George's silver medal victory in 2006.
Neena's silver medal added to India's tally, which swelled up to 41 medals with four medals coming from the athletics events including a gold medal through javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and three silvers medals from Men's 400m hurdles' second-placed Dharun Ayyasamy, Sudha Singh's podium finish from the Women's 3000m Steeplechase and Neena Varakil's magnificent leap.
Neena's first two jumps measured 6.41m and 6.40m respectively that took her into the top three before her next two jumps, a 6.50m jump, and a 6.51m attempt, which ultimately saw her seal the second spot received a thunderous applause from the crowd present at the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium as the Indian was on the cusp of winning the silver medal.
Her final two attempts, a 6.46m and 6.50m attempt did eventually fall short of her top mark of 6.51m which did suffice as in the end, the Indian sealed a top-two finish which witnessed her taking home the silver medal at the end of the intense summit battle.
There was another Indian long jumper in the frame, Nayana James, who missed out on a strong finish as she finished a lowly 10th with a jump of 6.14m.
With this win, Neena stole the spotlight and proved her mettle as one of India's best long jumpers. Here are five things to know about the Asian Games' silver medallist.
#1 Comes from Kerala, the heart of female long jump athletes
Neena Varakil was born on 2nd May 1991 at Meppayur, Calicut which is also known as Kozhikode. Neena, now 27 years of age is part of the illustrious list of famous female long jump athletes from Kerala such as Anju Bobby George, Mayookha Johny and legendary jumper Mercy Matthews-Kuttan.
#2 Personal best of 6.66m, recorded at Bengaluru in 2016
One of India's best long jumpers currently active in the country, Neena Valikar recorded an effort of 6.51m to win the silver medal at the Asian Games 2018. However, that was nowhere close to her personal best of 6.66m, which she recorded at a local competition which she participated in Bengaluru, during the year 2016.
#3 Gold medalist from the 2017 Asian Grand Prix
Neena came into the Asian Games in top form as she emerged at the top in the 2017 Asian Grand Prix Athletics meet in Jiaxing, recording a 6.37m jump to finish in the top spot, followed by China's Xu Xiao Ling, who managed a top score of 6.37m but lost out on average.
The then 25-year old athlete recorded three best jumps of 6.37m and two jumps of 6.32m, only just pipping her Chinese counterpart to claim the top honours.
#4 Silver-medal finish at the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships
In the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships that was held in Bhubaneshwar from the 6th-9th July, Neena Varakil recorded a jump of 6.54m that saw her finish with the silver medal from the event while Nayana James finished with the bronze medal.
Fresh from a strong outing at the Athletics meet, Neena was pipped to win at least the gold or silver medal and had to settle with silver since she was beaten by Vietnam's Bui Thu Thao, who registered a 6.54 jump as well but won when the scores were backtracked.
#5 A plethora of medals in 2018
The long jumper has enjoyed a terrific run in the calendar year with five medals, all of the silver in the year so far. Neena kick-started her preparation for the Asian Games with a silver medal finish at the Patiala Indian GP and the Patiala Federation Cup with jumps of 6.41 and 6.28 respectively while in the Guwahati Inter-state Championships, Neena leapt 6.33m to win the silver medal again before her second-place finish in this Asian Games.