THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The crowd at the University Stadium had their sights trained on local favourite Renjith Maheshwary as the heats of the men’s long jump in the 35th National Games commenced here early on Monday. But it was Tamil Nadu’s Kumaravel Premkumar who stole the show.
Though his qualification was never in doubt and the mark of 7.36 metres he recorded might not be very impressive, Premkumar feels that it was very important for him to start the new season on a bright note.
Premkumar, who turned 21 on Friday, set a new national record in long jump at the 79th Railways Athletics Championship, New Delhi, in 2013, leaping 8.08m, but has been largely anonymous in the past year.
“I had dreams of representing the country at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2014, but couldn’t get back to my physical best after contracting chicken pox in April last year,” Premkumar told TNIE on Monday.
“I was bed ridden for almost two months. I lost my fitness, speed and rhythm after returning to the track. It was like I had to start from scratch,” the Thanjavur lad confessed.
But the athlete feels that he is returning back to his peak. “My objective at the National Games is to touch the 8m mark. I hope I’ll be able to do it,” said Premkumar, who leapt 7.70 metres in the Chief Minister’s Trophy at Chennai recently.
He is being sponsored by the Tamil Nadu government and Jindal Steel Works (JSW) under its Sports Excellence Programme and will leave for the United States after the Games for training.
“My aim is to perform well at the 2016 Olympics and for that I feel it’s better to train and compete in the US,” said the athlete who is trained by US Olympian Jaimie Nieto at Los Angeles.
“In US, you have the US and Jamaican athletes to compete against. These guys consistently clear the 8.4 metre mark and training with them will help me prepare better,” said Premkumar, who holds both the indoor and outdoor long jump national records.
“My immediate aim is to qualify for the Olympics. I wish to spend around five months in the US where I’ll participate in as many events as possible to regain my best,” he concluded.