Standing just 5 feet 7 inches tall, K Prem Kumar does leap to impressive distances at the jumping pit. The silver he notched up for India on Friday in the 20th Asian Athletics Championships bears testimony to the fact that he makes up with his desire and conviction what he lacks in physique.
The 20-year old long jumper fought through difficulties in his run-up and take- off, hampered by a wet surface and a bit of headwind, to produce a leap of 7.92 m in his final attempt to push Tang Gongchen of China to third place. After, four rounds, Prem was leading with an effort of 7.86. Having opened with 7.64m, he failed to find his rhythm in the second, third and fifth attempts as 16-year old Wang Jianan bagged gold with jumps of 7.94m and 7.95 on his final 2 chances.
Prem, who touched 8 metres at the inter-state national athletics championship in Chennai last month, became the first Indian to win a long jump medal at this level in 13 years, after the current national coach Sanjay Kumar Rai’s silver in the 2001 Jakarta meet.
He is also the fifth Indian after Satish Pillai (bronze, 1973), T C Yohannan (gold, 1975), Suresh Babu (silver, 1979) and Rai to win a medal in men’s long jump.
His personal best of eight metres had made him only the fourth Indian to reach that landmark.
Rai felt that the youngster could still go further to be a force to reckon with in the international arena, though his lack of height does limit his chances.
“The most heartening thing about the boy is that he has the self-belief to try and achieve a set goal. He is as confident of his abilities as the coach is. That’s makes it easy to work with him,” said Rai.