Athletes from the Reliance Foundation Odisha Athletics High Performance Centre (HPC) in Bhubaneswar produced encouraging performances at the Junior National championships in Guwahati earlier this week, returning with a haul of three medals. Sabita Toppo was the standout performer among the four athletes who participated at the championships, three from the HPC Academy and one from the monitoring cohort, winning gold in the U-16 girls Long Jump and silver in the U-16 girls 80m hurdles. 15-year old Toppo, who has been earmarked as an athlete of immense potential, leapt a distance of 5.59 metres in the Long Jump and completed the 80m hurdles in 11.77 seconds, eclipsing her previous Personal Best (PB) marks in both events.

“It was tough to get Sabita ready for this competition in an extremely short period of time due to our end of season break and our strict quarantine restrictions,” said her personal coach Rohit Mane. “However, Sabita still got personal bests in both events and everything went exactly to plan. The long jump competition wasn't straightforward but I saw how she dug deep to win the competition - she is a truly great competitor.”

Head coach James Hillier, who was at hand in Guwahati to monitor the progress made by his wards, described Sabita’s two medals showing as “never being in doubt”. Having observed her early season form, he is keen to ensure she continues her rapid progress to focus on competing largely in the heptathlon from next season. Toppo, who came on board at the HPC in August 2019 after catching the eye with her performances as a student of the Sundergarh Sports Hostel, was pleased with her results at the championships, though she conceded to a tinge of a disappointment at missing out on gold in the hurdles.

“I am satisfied with my performance but not completely satisfied with the result,” said Toppo. “My main target for this year is to compete at the Asian U-18 Championships for India. I am extremely happy with the training I am getting at the HPC. I have improved immeasurably at everything including speed, strength and technique that wouldn’t have been possible without the expert training I have received here and without it, I wouldn't have been able to win medals at these championships.”

“I will celebrate by taking a few days rest and spending time with my training partners and fellow HPC athletes and staff,” she added. “However, from next week onwards I am looking forward to returning to full training.”

The other athlete to return with a medal from the championships was Rajendra Sidhu, who claimed bronze in the 80m hurdles in the U-16 boys category. Dilip Naik, who competed in the 800m & 1500m U-16 boys category was unable to get a podium place but Hillier said he “competed with heart”, only to lose out on a medal in the closing stages of both races. Hillier and his team have now returned to the HPC to resume their carefully charted training schedule for the challenges ahead.

“It was generally a very positive experience for our athletes,” says Hillier. “Our athletes were undoubtedly amongst the best prepared in the country. Technically they were better than their peers. In every competition our athletes enter, we commit to making them the best prepared. With more preparation time we aim to bring a far bigger team next season, with a promise to win many more medals.”

“We will now meticulously plan the remainder of the year for our athletes and as competitions are confirmed we will devise our training programmes accordingly,” he adds. “It's impossible to peak at every competition so it's best to highlight the most important competition of the year and plan back from that.”


Related News