He came, he saw and he conquered. That's what could be said about Indian athlete Eldhose Paul's performance in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games here on Sunday as the triple jumper from Bengaluru led a 1-2 finish in the event.
Paul won the gold medal ahead of compatriot N. Abdulla Aboobacker, improving on his personal best by a big margin just when it mattered.
But going by his recent performances and personal best, Paul was actually not the best Indian triple jumper in the fray in the Commonwealth Games on Sunday. He had once admitted without any hesitation that he came into the sport to get a job. But somewhere is priorities changed and he started taking it seriously. He proved that he was mentally the stronger one as he kept his nerves and came up with his best performance to win his major international medal.
On Sunday, Paul produced a personal best effort of 17.03 metres and Aboobacker was close behind at 17.02 as they claimed the top two spots in Men's Triple Jump at the Alexander Stadium here, claiming India's first gold medal in this discipline of track and field in Commonwealth Games.
India could have swept the podium but Praveen Chithravel could manage only 16.28 in his final attempt whereas he needed a jump close to 17.00 to snatch the bronze medal from Jah-Nhai Perinchief of Bermuda, who eventually finished third with a best effort of 16.92 metres.
This is India's first gold medal in athletics at Birmingham 2022 and sixth overall in the Commonwealth Games.
Paul, whose claim to fame before this event was that he is the first Indian to qualify for the final of the triple jump at the World Athletics Championships, on Sunday bagged India's first gold medal in the triple jump in the Commonwealth Games. The 1-2 finish with Aboobacker took India's total medals in the triple jump to six adding to the bronze and silver medals Mohinder Singh Gill won in 1970 and 1974 respectively, and bronze medals by Renjith Maheshwary (2010) and Arpinder Singh (2014).
Of course, the next target for Paul would be equal the great MS Gill's achievement of winning two medals in the Commonwealth Games, and going by his age, Paul could definitely improve on the feat of Gill, the Indian triple jump pioneer who won a bronze (1970) and silver (1974) in the Commonwealth Games.
Paul, who came into the event with a personal best of 16.99 this season while Aboobacker had a season-best of 17.19 and Chithravel had a best of 17.18. But on /Sunday, Paul upstaged his two friends as he cleared 17.03 in his third attempt after two looseners in 14.62 and 16.30 in his first two tries. He jumped to 16.43 in his fourth try and then managed 16.43 and 16.11 in his final two jumps.
Aboobacker had a better start as he cleared 16.57 in the first and raised it to 16.62 and 16.72 in hjis net to attempts. He clinched the silver medal with a 17.02 m effort in the penultimate attempt.
Though it was not a great event going by the fact that Paul won the gold with a jump of 17.03, it will do the Indian triple jumpers a lot of good because it is the first medal in this discipline for India in a major event since Mohinder Singh Gill's gold in the Bangkok Asian Games in 1970.
While Gill has gone on to win three gold medals in Asian Championships, Paul has a long way to go.
Though he came in to Birmingham with little pressure as the focus was on Aboobacker and Chithravel, Paul said he was confident before the competition started.
"It was OK. I came here to record a personal best and I did that, and it automatically earned me gold."
"I had confidence because we were jumping good distances in training and there were good conditions for jumping today," he said after the event.
If he maintains this level of confidence, Paul has shown that he has the nerves to withstand pressure. Now he has to maintain this level and perform consistently to become the best the country has ever produced.
It's a hard journey that Eldhose Paul has set himself on to.
( 735 Words)