A new vision for Kirthana

KUALA LUMPUR: National triple jumper R. Kirthana went to her third SEA Games in the Philippines in December last year and was looking forward to winning her first medal in the regional Games.
She finished a poor seventh. It has now been revealed that her poor performance was because of her failing eyesight. She could not see the jumping board clearly. The Perak-born athlete has had eyesight problems since 2017 but her vision got worst in January. Even the contact lenses she used for training and competitions are no longer good enough.

But all is not dark clouds for the 23-year-old Kirthana, who has been the country’s top triple jumper since 2017.

She may yet be able to deliver medals from Para Games, and could even qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.

Kirthana, who has a personal best of 13.48, finished fifth in the Asian Championships with an effort of 13.33m in Doha, Qatar last April and had been expected to win a medal in the Philippines.

Her coach Ahmad Firdaus Salim, who started training her after the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 2017, said that she could not see the jumping board clearly at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium

“Despite her poor vision, she had no problem maintaining a good run towards the board but could not see the board when she made the jump.

“She had a few foul jumps which affected her performance,” said Ahmad. “Kirthana has not trained this year due to blur vision and also did not compete in any competitions.

“She went for a check-up and the doctor told her she has uncorrected refractive errors, a condition where the eye is misshapen, preventing successful refraction.

“She is feeling down as the blurred vision has affected her athletic career,” said Ahmad.

“I don’t want her to give up. She can still compete as a disabled athlete in para competitions. She has a personal best of 6.15m in the long jump and 13.48m in triple jump.

“I have informed national para athletics chief coach R. Jaganathan about Kirthana.

“He is more than willing to help Kirthana train and feature in para competitions as she could qualify for Tokyo Paralympics next year,” added Ahmad.

The Paralympics records for long jump (T11-T3) are between 5.07m to 5.74.

Kirthana has a personal best of 6.15m which she did en route to the gold at the Kuala Lumpur Open last August.

Jaganathan said he did not want Kirthana to feel bad about her problem.

“Instead, we want her to compete in the Para Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Johor later this year so she can be drafted into the national para athletics programme.

“The para Sukma is for athletes below the age of 35.

Kirthana is a top long jumper and she has the potential to win medals at international levels,” said Jaganathan.

Kirthana holds the Sukma record with her leap of 13.31m in Kuching in 2016.

“We also want her to be checked by the International Paralympic Council (IPC)-certified doctor that she has vision impairment before she can get approval to compete in international para competitions.

“As for now, we want her to train to prepare herself for domestic para competitions,” said Jaganathan.

Source: A new vision for Kirthana