As soon as the screen flashed 16.51 m, Praveen Chitravel jumped in jubilation and pointed to Antony Yaich. It was a gesture to thank the Frenchman who has been working with the 17-year-old for the last three months at the Inspire Institute of Sports in Vijayanagar.
The jump that helped the Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist the gold medal in the 23rd Federation Cup at Patiala on Saturday was a significant improvement on his best effort in Argentina of 15.84m and Chitravel credits his new coach for the change in technique that has made it possible.
A son of a farm labourer, Chitravel trained under Indira Suresh before being selected by JSW scouts for further training in Vijayanagar last year, where Yaich has been working on his speed and jump technique. Though it is far from perfect yet, the changes were enough for the 17-year-old to book his berth for the Asian Championships in Doha.
“I had changed my technique as we increased the speed in the run-up and the coach also told me to not land on my toes,” he says. “I was not able to control my speed in the jump.”
His first attempt was only 15.89m, a jump which he says he was able to control the speed and not worry about the takeoff. But it played on his mind so much that he decided to stop thinking and focus only on the jump.
“I did not think about the speed later. I was thinking I just have to not foul and everything will be fine. I did that,” he says.
And it was enough to bag the old with second placed Mohammad Zuber managing to clear a distance of only 16.38m while Mohammad Salahuddin took home the bronze with a jump of 16.36m.
The biggest disappointment of the event probably was Asian Games triple jump gold medallist Arprinder Singh, who could only managed to clear a distance of 16.34m.
While Arpinder was the star attraction and got the loudest cheers every time he prepared for the jump, Chitravel insists he did not even notice the senior jumper. “I was thinking more about my jumps and speed. I didn’t realise he was also participating. I didn’t notice it during the competition and realised it only after the event,” he says.
It is unlikely then that the teenager would know that he also bettered the previous junior national record of 16.45 m twice on Saturday. The previous record was set by Arprinder in 2010. He jumped 16.47 m on the third attempt before adding four centimetres in the next.
There is, however, a lot to improve and Chitravel says he is yet to fully get to used to the changes made in his regime.
“I felt like I could touch 16.70m or 16.80m here but because I have changed my technique it takes time to get used to it,” he says. “I have increased my speed which is good but at the back of my mind there is always a thought that I could overstep. I am working on it and hopefully in the future I will put it to better use.”
He still has time to continue improving and according to Yaich the focus will be the junior World Championships in 2020.
“We are taking it slow. After the World University Games in July, we will focus on the second phase of his jump and try to improve his balance while he maintains speed.
“Then we will be preparing for junior worlds and the aim will be to reach 17 m before that. He is a jumper with lot of potential and can be a consistent jumper over 17 m,” Yaich said.