With 6 Finalists, India Register Best-Ever Show at World Athletics Championships
Six Indian athletes qualified for the finals of 2022 World Athletics Championships, making it their best-ever outing
The Quint DAILY
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While Neeraj Chopra was India’s solitary medallist at the 2022 World Athletics Championships – winning silver in men’s javelin throw – the nation registered its best ever performance at the tournament. Doubling the previous record of three Indian finalists in the 2015 instalment, as many as six athletes made it to the finals round this time around, with four of them coming in the top ten.
Indian athletes who reached the finals at the 2022 World Athletics Championships:
Neeraj Chopra – Silver in Men's Javelin Throw
Though it was not the gold like the Olympics, Neeraj Chopra’s silver medal made him only the second Indian to enjoy the privilege of standing on the podium at the World Athletics Championships, after long-jumper Anju Bobby George broke the ice with a bronze medal in 2003.
Having set a new national record with a throw of 89.94m in the Stockholm Diamond League a month back, the Haryana-born athlete was expected to cross the 89-metre mark once again. While that was not to be, his throw of 88.39m was enough to make him the best performer from Group A in the qualification round, ahead of the silver medallist from the 2022 Summer Olympics, Jakub Vadlejch.
Neeraj’s performance in the finals was a tad subpar, but only if the judgment is based on the astronomical ceiling he has set for himself. A fourth-round throw of 88.13m saw him finishing second, behind Anderson Peters of Grenada, who went on to match his Stockholm Diamond League throw of 90.54m.
Murali Sreeshankar – 7th in Long Jump
Long jumper Murali Sheeshankar had a mixed campaign in Oregon. Even though he became the first athlete from his nation to make it to the finals of the World Athletics Championships in long jump, he was certainly not seen at his best during his event.
Barring Neeraj, Sreeshankar was arguably India’s biggest hope for a medal, for all the right reasons. The 23-year-old from Kerala shattered his own national record with a spectacular 8.26m jump in the 2021 Federation Cup.
Sreeshankar hit exactly the 8-metre mark in the qualifiers with his second-round jump. He was second in his group, behind Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou. However, with as many as five long jumpers going north of 8m from the other group, the Indian starlet was always likely to be up for a stern test in the finals.
A similar jump of 8m was never going to be enough to secure a medal, but Sreeshankar failing to reach even that mark took the Indian contingent by surprise. He came close, with a 7.96m jump in his first round attempt in the finals, but that was about all he had left in the tank. That being said, he still remains a major medal contender for India at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which will also be his first outing in that event after missing the previous edition owing to appendicitis.
Annu Rani – 7th in Women's Javelin Throw
Javelin thrower Annu Rani’s story is quite similar to that of Sreeshankar’s, which highlights how many Indian athletes did just about enough to make it to the finals in this showpiece event, but could not quite reach their best level – hence explaining why the contingent returned with a single medal, despite having six finalists.
Expectations were high from the 29-year-old, and justifiably so, as back in May, she created a new national record with a throw of 63.82m at the Indian Open Javelin Throw Competition in Jamshedpur. Though not the gold medal, a similar throw would have been enough for Rani to bag bronze in Oregon.
Her qualifying performance could be considered below average by her standards, with her best throw being 59.60m. However, it fortunately proved to be enough to make it to the finals, albeit not by as big a margin as she ideally would have preferred.
Rani did manage to make it beyond the 60-metre mark in the final round, with a second-round throw of 61.12m earning her seventh place in the standings. Australian Kelsey-Lee Barber, who eventually stood at the top of the podium, left everyone spellbound with an incredible throw of 66.91m.
Eldhose Paul – 9th in Triple Jump
His ninth position in the final standings might not portray the picture accurately, but Eldhose Paul was undoubtedly one of India’s most promising performers in the Championships. One particular reason why his achievement was special happens to be the event he competes in – triple jump.
This sport is not as developed, or competitive at the local levels in India as compared to some other countries. In fact, Paul is the very first triple jumper from India to make it to the finals of the World Athletics Championship.
However, those who have tracked the incredible progress of the lad from Kerala will term his result as a ‘long time coming.’ Back in May, his 16.99m jump not only earned him the gold medal at the Federation Cup, but was also the season’s best figure.
Having reached Oregon just days before the event, owing to visa complications, Paul qualified for the finals by the skin of his teeth. He was the last qualifier from his group with a 16.68m jump, while it also should be mentioned that his Indian teammate, Praveen Chithravel nearly made the cut as well.
Paul’s performance in the finals was even better, as a second-round jump of 16.79m saw him finishing above many renowned athletes in this sport – especially Will Claye, who happens to be a three-time Olympic medallist.
Rohit Yadav – 10th in Men's Javelin Throw
India’s third javelin thrower to make it to the finals, Rohit Yadav has been operating under the shadows of Neeraj Chopra for a while now, but his performance at Oregon proved why the nation can expect big things from the 21-year-old in the years to come.
Yadav’s first shot at fame was at the National Inter State Senior Athletics Championship in Chennai, where he won the silver medal with a throw of 82.54m. At the World Athletics Championships, he was placed in Group B in the qualifiers, alongside the eventual winner, Peters.
Though he was not the best of the lot, Yadav did well to qualify for the finals with a first-round throw of 80.42m. However, he could not reach the 80-metre mark in the finals. After two disappointing throws, his third-round throw of 78.72m earned him a place in the top ten.
Avinash Sable – 11th in 3000m Steeplechase
A silver medallist at the Asian Athletics Championships, Avinash Sable was a prime contender for a medal for India. He entered the competition with the best possible form and frame of mind to count on, breaking and making records for fun in recent times.
In this year itself, he set a new grand record in the Indian Grand Prix with a time of 8:16.21. The 3000m steeplechase athlete then went on to break his record at the Meeting International Mohamed CI with a time of 8:16.21.
His performance in the heat was fairly decent, as a timing of 8:18:75 saw him finishing seventh. However, the main event was a complete letdown, with the man from Maharashtra setting a time of 8:31:75 and failing to make it to even the top ten, let alone fight for a place on the podium.
While we can highlight the nearly 20-second gap between his timing in the World Athletics Championships and his personal best, it also should be mentioned that the race itself was slow, in fact, the slowest in the history of 2000m steeplechase in this showpiece. The front-runner Soufiane El Bakkali did well to set a slow pace for the rest of the pack to follow, before eventually increasing his own pace at the last dash, but adapting a shrewd strategy like the Moroccan is something Sable still needs to learn.
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