As early as his second attempt in the long jump competition of the 79th Railways Athletic Championships at the JLN Stadium, Kumaravel Premkumar was assured of a gold. The 20-year-old who had leapt a distance of 7.95m, however, had his hands on his hips as he glanced at the electronic scoreboard. Clearly he wasn't done for the day.
On his fifth and penultimate attempt Premkumar seemed confident. And he got what he was looking for. He rushed to check his distance on the scoreboard but had to wait.
Officials first checked his mark with the laser rangefinder, then double checked it, and then cross checked it once more with a measuring tape. Nearly a minute later, the scoreboard finally flashed the numbers 8.09 and Premkumar pumped his fist and posed behind the device – he had gone past the 9-year-old national mark of 8.08m set in 2004 by Amritpal Singh.
While he had to wait, Premkumar says he knew he had the record. “I knew immediately that the jump had gone well and that I was going to go past the national mark. But I made a mistake while landing. I wasn't able to stretch my legs out completely and that easily cost me 10 centimetres,” he says.
The effort, wasn't even his best. Just last month, the diminutive jumper from Tamil Nadu had leaped 8.12m in a competition in Chula Vista, USA, where he was trying to qualify for the World Championships. However, the fact that it was wind assisted (3.1m/s) beyond the permissible limit meant that it wasn't considered.
Despite the effort, Premkumar was understandably a bit disappointed. He had won silver at the Asian Championships in Pune last month with a leap of 7.92m. Gold had gone to China's Wiang Jianan with a leap of 7.95 metres. A gold there would have given Premkumar automatic qualification for the Worlds Championships in Moscow as a continental champion.
While he may have missed the Moscow games, Premkumar has a target in mind. He has a wall paper on his mobile phone of a clock on Brazil standard time, and is hopeful of making an impression at the CWG and Asian Games next year. Premkumar isn't done this year either and is looking to improve his mark at the Open Nationals next month.
“I will definitely improve on this mark at the Nationals. I have been consistent right from