Shaili Singh, a 17-year-old long jumper won the silver medal at the Under-20 World Championships in Nairobi on Sunday. Under the guidance of long jump great Anjo Bobby George and coached by her husband Robert, Shailie missed gold by 1 cm but has established herself as a star to watch. Incidentally, Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra became the U-20 world champion five years ago.
In her third jump, Shelley breaks her personal best of 6.59m to move to provisional first after dropping to fourth at the end of the second round. However, Sweden's Maya Askag, the junior European champion, beat Shaili in fourth round by the narrowest margin to finally win the gold medal. Shaili previous best jump was 6.48m.
Shaylee's next two jumps were fouls. She regrouped, hoping to better Askag in the final round. She clasped her hands in prayer as she completed the jump, but bend down and hit the track repeatedly with her palm in disappointment when the 6.37m was displayed on the electronic board.
Shaili's eyes filled with tears before she regained her composure, and held the tricolor over her shoulders to cap a successful evening in her first international competition in the Kenyan capital at 1,795 meters above sea level.The journey she made from Jhansi to Nairobi in her fledgling and promising career was full of metaphorical uphill climbs.
As a child, she ran without shoes, but had a brave blister to compete in school competitions. Her family found it difficult to put three full meals on the table. Mother Vinita is an ardent fan, and the first person she calls to update on results.
My mother told me before the final not to worry. She expected me to win the gold medal. Next time I will win the gold medal. I wanted to hear the national anthem playing in the stadium. As she is a single mother, it was difficult for her but my mother looked after me, my sister, and my brother,” Shaili said.
Anju, the national record holder and the world's greatest bronze medalist, hopes that Shaili will reach even greater heights and win an Olympic medal for the country.
"She can improve the national record (6.83 meters). Our main goal for Shalie is to help her finish the podium at the Olympic Games, which is the most valuable thing. If our traienee can win a medal, I will consider it as my own". Anju said
Before the U-20 World Championship, Coach Robert set a goal for Shaili of 6.60 meters knowing that his explosive speed on the track would be difficult to counter.
"She usually meets my goals. But I know she capable of bigger things. She is a teenage athlete but has the spirit of an adult. I can promise you that she will rule the track and field circuit for the next 10 years. It was her first international competition and she won. silver at the world championships and I'm happy.” said Robert
Shaili is the first in her family to play sports. She has her mother to thank for encouraging her to pursue track and field, even though the family was not well off. It was Vinita who alerted Shaili about the selection trials after seeing an advertisement in a newspaper.
Shaili entered the Lucknow Sports Hostel, but her big break came after she caught the eye of Robert, even though she ended up with no medals and was not in the right style at the National Junior Athletics Championships in Vijayawada in 2017. A week later, Anju saw her at a Inter district junior champion, and the couple agreed they had found an athlete with the potential to become the next big star.
"She was a rough diamond. Being able to find an athlete like this is a precious thing. We knew that if we guided her, we would make it great," says Anju.