Shaili Singh became India’s first medallist in long jump at the Athletics World U-20 Championships in Nairobi on Sunday as she secured a podium finish in Nairobi with an effort of 6.59m, missing gold medal by a mere one centimeter.

Until this edition, India had won a total of four medals in the World Athletics Junior Championships, with bronze medals for Discus Thrower Seema Antil (2002) and Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (2014) and gold medals for Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra (2016) and 400m runner Hima Das (2018). India nearly matched that tally in one edition.

Shaili Singh’s was India’s third medal in the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi, coming after the bronze won by the Mixed Team in the 4x400m Relay and the silver by Amit Khatri in the men’s 10,000m Race Walk.

The jump in her third attempt saw her briefly lead the chart until Sweden’s Maja Askag surpassed her mark by a centimetre when she jumped 6.60m. Askag thus finished with a gold in triple jump as well as long jump.

Singh, after her superb third try, then fouled in her next two attempts before finishing with an effort of 6.37. Singh cut a disappointed figure at the end of her final attempt evidently at coming close to winning gold but she had created history nonetheless.

The effort, even though better than her previous personal best of 6.48m, will not be registered as a new PB because it was registered with a wind assistance of +2.2 m/s. But it was enough on the day for her to clinch silver.

Also on final day, Donald Makimairaj (men’s triple jump) and women’s 4x400m relay team finished fourth. The former came within 0.03m of a medal.

The 17-year-old Shaili, considered one of the brightest upcoming stars in Indian athletics, topped the qualification rounds. She achieved her best of the day in her third and final jump after starting off with a 6.34m in Group B. Her second jump recorded a distance of 5.98m. She had then qualified for the final by topping the qualification round with an effort of 6.40m on Friday.

Singh’s medal was India third at the 2021 championships bronze in the mixed 4x400m relay and silver by Amit Khatri in men’s 10km race walk

Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Singh was spotted by Anju Bobby George, a former senior world championship medallist in long jump and trains under the legendary long jumper at the SAI campus in Bengaluru. Indeed, the only other long jump medal at a global event for India had been won by Anju herself (Paris, 2003).

India at U20 Athletics Worlds

2002 - Jamaica Seema Antil Discus Throw Women *BRONZE 55.83m
2014 - USA Navjeet Kaur Dhillon Discus Throw Women Bronze 56.36m
2016 - Poland Neeraj Chopra Javelin Throw Men Gold 86.48m
2018 - Finland Hima Das 400m Women Gold 51.46s
2021 - Nairobi Barath, Priya, Kapil and Summy Mixed 4x400m Bronze 3:20.60s
2021 - Nairobi Amit Khatri 10000 race walk men Silver 42:17.94s

Earlier, Donald Makirmairaj was in bronze medal position when he logged in 15.70m on his second try but was soon crowded out of the podium reckoning. He fought back with a personal best leap of 15.82m on his fifth attempt, 6cm more than his previous best. Jumping into a slight headwind, he finished just 3cm short of Frenchman Simon Gore’s bronze medal winning effort.

Gallant efforts by Summy and Priya Habbanathahalli Mohan in the second and anchor legs lifted the Indian women’s 4x400m relay squad from fifth place to a creditable fourth in a time of 3:40.45. They both had sub-54 second split times, being credited with 53.75 and 53.38, compared to the efforts of Payal Vohra (57.28) and Rajitha Kunja (56.04).

Ankita Dhyani finished sixth in the gruelling women’s 5000m in a time of 17:17.68, as she bravely took the challenge presented to distance runners by the altitude of Nairobi. She stuck with the leaders – the only non-African in the bunch of six – till the 3000m mark.

Ankita finished in the top six after the disqualification of Melknat Wudu (Ethiopia) and Prisc Chesang (Uganda) who broke the beam in the second and third places but had stepped inside the track with about 1300m left.

CORRECTION: The original article said Seema Antil won silver at Jamaica 2002 as per the information on the AFI site. The World Athletics database confirms that Seema’s medal in 2002 is a bronze. The error is regretted.