Parul, Aldrin qualify for World Championships finals; Sreeshankar suffers shock exit

PTI, Aug 24, 2023, 9:44 AM IST

Parul Chaudhary on Wednesday became only the second Indian female athlete to qualify for the final round of a track event in the World Athletics Championships as she finished fifth in her 300m steeplechase heat race here.

The 28-year-old Chaudhary clocked a personal best time of 9 minutes 24.29 seconds to finish fifth in heat number two and make it to the final round to be held on Sunday.

The top five finishers in all the three heats qualified for the final round.

Chaudhary’s earlier personal best was 9:29.51 which she had clocked in an event in USA in May this year.

Before Chaudhary, Lalita Babar, also a 3000m steeplechaser, was the lone Indian woman to have qualified for the final round of a track event in the World Championships.

Babar, who still holds the women’s 3000m steeplechase national record of 9:19.76, had finished eighth in the final of the 2015 World Championships.

Earlier in the day, national record holder long jumper Jeswin Aldrin qualified for his maiden World Championships finals but fellow competitor Murali Sreeshankar made a shock exit at the qualification round after his worst performance of the season.

Javelin thrower Annu Rani, also a national record holder but struggling for form for some time, produced her second worst performance of the season with a 57.05m effort to crash out in the qualification round after finishing 11th in Group A and 19th overall.

The 21-year-old Aldrin, who entered the showpiece as season leader with his 8.42m national record effort in March, cleared 8.0m in his first attempt and fouled his next two jumps. But that was sufficient for him to make it to the 12-man final to be held on Thursday.

Those who cleared automatic qualification distance of 8.15m or top 12 from the two qualification groups made it to the finals.

Aldrin, who finished sixth in Group B qualification round, was the 12th best performer overall and made it to the finals as the last qualifier.

On Wednesday, he became the second Indian male long jumper to qualify for the finals in the showpiece after Sreeshankar, who had finished seventh in the 2022 World Championships in USA.

The 24-year-old Sreeshankar had a disappointing series of 7.74m, 7.66m and 6.70m as he finished 12th in Group A qualification round and 22nd overall. This was Sreeshankar’s worst performance of the season.

His exit in the qualification round was another shocker for the Indian camp reeling under 3000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable’s failure to make it to the finals. He was expected to at least reach the finals.

Sreeshankar has been more consistent than Aldrin this season, having crossed the 8m mark on many occasions. He achieved his personal best of 8.41m in Bhubaneswar in June and was entering the World Championships on the back of his silver-winning jump of 8.37m in the Asian Championships in July.

But on Wednesday, form deserted Sreeshankar — the Paris Diamond League third place finisher — when it mattered the most. This was his third appearance in the showpiece.

For Aldrin, this was his second appearance in the World Championships. He had crashed out at the qualification round in the 2022 edition in USA.

In a rare feat, two Indians — Aldrin and Sreeshankar — had entered the World Championships as first and second ranked long jumpers in the season leaders’ list.

Aldrin has been struggling to touch the 8m mark after his big jump early in the season. He had also faced fitness issues, which led to him missing the Asian Championships in July.

His most recent outing was at the CITIUS Meeting in Bern, Switzerland which he won with 8.22m.

The competition witnessed some dramatic moments with Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece and defending champion Wang Jianan of China finding themselves in danger of missing out on the finals before making the grade with their third and final jumps of 8.25m and 8.34m respectively.

Young Jamaican national champion Wayne Pinnock, 22, stunned the Budapest crowd with a 8.54m new world leading jump in his first attempt in Group A qualification round. He did not take any further jumps.

Asian champion Lin Yu-Tang of Chinese Taipei also missed the final round with a best jump of 7.45m while reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist LaQuan Nairn of Bahamas recorded a ‘No-Mark’ after three foul jumps.

The 30-year-old Annu Rani’s disappointing show could raise questions as to why she was sent at all for the showpiece. She had entered the tournament through world ranking quota, as she did not record a single 60m throw in the four events she participated this season before the World Championships.

She had entered the Wold Championships after a 54.76m performance in an event in Germany on August 6. Before that, she had finished fourth in the Asian Championships in July with 59.10m.

She had recorded 59.24m and 58.22m in the Federation Cup and National Inter-State Championships in May and June, showing her struggle all through the season so far.

Indian athletes have disappointed so far in the World Championships here.

On the opening day on Saturday, national record holder 3000m steeplechaser Sable failed to qualify for the final round after finishing a disappointing seventh in his heat race.

Three Indians brought up the rear in the men’s 20km race walk final while young Shaili Singh also failed to make it to the women’s long jump final.

Ajay Kumar Saroj ran his personal best of three minutes 38.24 seconds in men’s 1500m heats but that was not enough to qualify for the semifinals, while none of the three Indians in the men’s triple jump — Praveen Chithravel, Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker — made it to the final round.

On Sunday, Santhosh Kumar Tamilarasan and Sarvesh Anil Kushare had crashed out in the 400m hurdles heat race and high jump qualification round respectively.

National record holder 100m hurdler Jyothi Yarraji failed to qualify for the semifinals on Tuesday as she finished seventh in her heat. She clocked 13.05 seconds — well below her national record of 12.78s.

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