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Khelo India Youth Games: Ritesh pips Ajay to 3000m victory

Saliha demolishes the field in the girls’ under-17 high jump

Ritesh Ohire hit the tape at 8m 56.12s to win the 3000m gold at the Khelo India Youth Games athletics competition.

He was followed home by silver medallist Ajay (8:56.88) and bronze medallist Atul Gamit (8:56.94) in the boys’ under-17 event.

In a field of 12, the winner from Madhya Pradesh timed his kick to edge out his rivals from Haryana and Gujarat in a desperate run to a close finish.

There was little to separate the front-runner and rivals ready and willing to fight for the gold medal, and probable entry into the shortlist of talent spotters from Sports Authority of India watching track and field action.

First attempt

Loose-limbed K.H. Saliha demolished the competition in the girls’ under-17 high jump with her first attempt, clearing 1.68m for a career-best leap and the KIYC gold medal was in her backpack.

The Kerala athlete’s earlier best was 1.66 at a meet in New Delhi. Teammate Meera Biju finished joint third after a 1.60m leap (along with Haryana’s Khushi). Tamil Nadu’s K. Gobika (1.64) bagged the silver.

Ritesh’s confidence came through in his finishing kick, Saliha just went out and enjoyed doing what she loves the most. Long-distance runners striding neck and neck at the finish is thrilling, and a jumper producing a career high at the start is interesting.

Total support

“I was asked to try out the high jump by my school coach in seventh class and I enjoyed training and competing,” said the Canco School student from Thrissur. “Total support from parents keeps me going.”

These two under-17 winners stand a chance of getting government support for eight years, worth ₹5 lakh annually, in case spotted by talent scouts for further training in an athletics academy shortlisted by SAI.

Saliha is not thinking too far ahead on the day of triumph; like other teenagers, she wants to enjoy the happy memory and leave career decision to parents.

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