Eldhose Paul qualifies last, but it’s a first
Eldhose Paul became the first Indian to qualify for the men’s triple jump final at the World Championships with an effort of 16.68m on Thursday. He finished sixth in Group A qualification round and 12th overall to make the cut for Sunday’s final (6.50am IST). The 25-year-old Paul, who reached the US just a few days ago due to visa issues, has a season’s and personal best of 16.99m, which he had recorded while winning gold in the Federation Cup in April.
The two other Indians — Praveen Chithravel and Abdulla Aboobacker — were unimpressive as they failed to make it to the finals after below-par jumps of 16.49m and 16.45m, respectively. Chitravel finished eighth in Group A, and 17th overall, while Aboobacker ended at 10th in Group B, and 19th overall.
Those who cleared 17.05m or the 12 best performers across the two qualification round groups qualified for the finals. Chitravel had produced the third longest-ever jump by an Indian with a stunning effort of 17.18m to clinch gold at the National Inter-State Senior Athletics Championships in Chennai last month.
Aboobacker, who had won silver in the Chennai meet, has a season’s and personal best of 17.19m. But Paul, a 25-year-old from Ernakulam, Kerala, outjumped his compatriots in the qualifying round to book a spot in the finals. Paul trains at the Bangalore facility of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) under coach M. Harikrishnan. He is employed with the Indian Navy and represents Services in the domestic circuit.
In the build-up to the World Championships, Paul recorded jumps of 16.81m at the National Inter-State Athletics Championships in Chennai and 16.55m at the Qosanov Memorial meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo topped the qualification chart with an effort of 17.16m in his very first jump at the Hayward Field Stadium. Pichardo is also the Olympic champion having won gold in Tokyo.
Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango, who holds the African record, qualified second with a jump of 17.15m. Zango was the bronze medal winner at the Tokyo Olympics. Only five athletes were able to hit the automatic qualification mark (17.05m) on Thursday. Besides Pichardo and Zango, the others who breached the 17m mark were Emmanuel Ihemeje (17.13m, Italy), Zhu Yaming (17.08m, China) and Lazaro Martinez (17.06m, Cuba). Yaming won the silver at the Tokyo Games. Realistically, it will be difficult for Paul to leap into medal contention in the finals. But, he if he manages to do his best and few of the favourites do not have a good day, anything is possible.