By Aftar Singh
KUALA LUMPUR: Eighteen-year-old R. Kirthana has been making steady progress in women’s triple jump since finishing sixth in the Singapore SEA Games in June.
The Perak girl, who cleared 12.87m in the SEA Games, leapt to a personal best of 13.13m in the Negri Sembilan Open at the Paroi Stadium last week.
It was enough for her to qualify for her second IAAF World Junior Athletics Championships in Kazan, Russia, next July. The qualifying mark is 12.95m.
Kirthana qualified for her first world junior meet in Oregon, United States, in July with her then personal best of 13.06m, which she set in the Asian Zone qualifying competition in Bangkok in May.
“I only took up triple jump three years ago … I’m thrilled to have improved on my personal best in the Negri Sembilan Open,” she said.
Kirthana, who began her athletics career as a sprinter, has about 10 months to prepare for the world junior meet, declared “I aim to qualify for the final in Kazan”.
Before that, the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) pre-university student will be gunning for the gold in the Asean Schools championships in Brunei in November.
Kirthana’s efforts in the Negri Sembilan Open has not gone unnoticed by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF), with technical director Robert Ballard saying that it has earned her a place in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games squad.
“She has shown improvement since the SEA Games. She now trains under coach Victor (Stonikov),” he said of the man who helped Mohd Hakimi Ismail break the men’s SEA Games triple jump record in Singapore on the way to winning the gold.
“We’ll send Kirthana overseas for competitions as we want her to further improve on her personal best in the world junior meet.
“The Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Sarawak will be held in July next year, but I hope her state will allow her to compete in the world meet rather than in Sukma,” added the Australian coach.