KUALA LUMPUR: High jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa is Malaysia’s best hope of ending a 16-year Commonwealth Games medal drought in athletics at Gold Coast next year.
Nauraj is ranked joint-second among Commonwealth high jumpers in the 2017 IAAF Top Lists based on his personal best of 2.30m achieved at the Singapore Open in April.
It puts Nauraj, 25, in contention for a place on the podium for the first time for Malaysia since 2002 when Hisham Khaironi won silver in the men’s para 100m and Yuan Yufang claimed bronze in the women’s 20km walk in Manchester.
G. Saravanan is Malaysia’s only athletics gold medallist when he won the men’s 50km walk at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
For Nauraj to lay his hands on a medal, he will have to overcome the likes of England’s Robert Grabarz, the 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist, who is the top Commonwealth jumper this year with a personal best of 2.31m.
Others include 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michael Mason of Canada and England’s Tom Gale, who have both matched Nauraj’s jump of 2.30m this year.
Following the four high jumpers closely are Donald Thomas of the Bahamas (2.29m), defending Commonwealth Games champion Derek Drouin of Canada (2.28), England’s Chris Baker (2.28) and Cypriot Vasilios Konstantinou (2.28).
Nauraj, who arrived in Sydney on Sunday to begin his preparation with coach Alex Stewart, said his only concern is over his own performance rather than where he ranks.
“None of that actually matters or indicates anything to me,” said national record holder Nauraj on Tuesday.
“What I’ve taken away from this season is that it’s important to perform when it actually matters.
“I’m really looking forward to the Gold Coast Games and I’m expecting it to be a strong competition. It’s going to be a tough mission I’ll be on and having said that I’ll be selling myself short if I’m not aiming to finish on the podium.”
Nauraj’s maiden Commonwealth Games appearance in Glasgow in 2014 ended early in the qualifying round when he could only clear 2.06m.
However, Nauraj has come a long way since then by just missing out on the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic final on countback, qualifying for his first World Championships on merit this year and completing a hat-trick of Sea Games gold medals.