The story behind triple jump’s golden day at the CWG

For the last few weeks, sitting in his national camp base in Bengaluru, M. Harikrishnan used to wake up at odd hours and watch his athletes train in Chula Vista and Oregon during the recent World Championships in the USA and then in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Surprisingly, despite three Indian triple jumpers qualifying for the Worlds and the Commonwealth Games, no coach was sent to Oregon or Birmingham. “We could not get the visa for the coach,” explained Adille Sumariwalla, the Athletics Federation of India president, from Birmingham.

But Harikrishnan was always willing to help, any time of the day or night.

“I used to sit up after midnight and watch my athletes train in the US, they used to send me videos during training and I used to correct their mistakes. They were in the US for a few days after the Worlds.

“After they reached Birmingham, I could train them online at a more comfortable time,” Harikrishnan, a former international, told The Hindu from Bengaluru on Sunday evening.

Midnight lessons

Those midnight lessons were very fruitful for Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker, Harikrishnan’s two trainees, made history winning gold and silver in the Commonwealth Games. It was India’s first gold in triple jump at the Games and the first-ever one-two in an athletics event at the CWG.

A few days ago, Eldhose had told this writer that his teammates Aboobacker and Praveen Chithravel would be his biggest challengers.

That was indeed the case. And they had bigger jumps too, while Eldhose was the lone man among the three who had not crossed the 17m barrier, sitting on the edge with a personal best of 16.99m.

But Eldhose, a petty officer with the Navy here who hails from Ramamangalam in Ernakulam, came to Birmingham with a huge advantage. He was the only Indian to qualify for the final at the the Worlds, finishing ninth, and used those lessons smartly.

“Just with the world’s best in Oregon gave me a lot of confidence. When I came here, I knew I had the capability to do over 17m, the conditions were great, I got the perfect connection during the three phases and I got a decent jump,” said Eldhose.

Incidentally there’s a connection between Anju Bobby George, the country’s first Worlds medallist (long jump bronze, 2003 Paris), and Eldhose. Eldhose’s first main coach was T.P. Ouseph, at Kothamangalam’s Mar Athanasius College in Ernakulam, who had trained Anju during her early years.

“When he came to me, he was just a 13m jumper and I brought him close to 16m after three years training and that’s how he got selected to the Navy,” said Ouseph.

“Though he is not very tall, he has very good explosive power.”

And on a day Neeraj Chopra made history with his Olympic gold in Tokyo last year, the triple jumpers wrote a new chapter too.