Shaili Singh: Raised By A Poor Single Mother, This Long Jumper Could Soon Make History

Shaili Singh
Who is Shaili Singh: Long jumper Shaili Singh has qualified for the finals at the ongoing World Athletics U20 Championship in Nairobi, Kenya on Friday, raising medal hopes for India. The athlete made it to the finals after topping the qualification round with an effort of 6.40m. She has registered her best show at the event. In the first attempt on Friday, Singh recorded a jump of 6.34m. In the second attempt, however, she couldn’t jump higher than 5.98m. The automatic qualification mark was 6.35m.

The 17-year-old is one of the biggest medal prospects in Indian athletics, achieving her best jump of the day in her third and final attempt of 6.40m. Singh is the current U-18 world No. 2. The Jhansi-born athlete has a great team to mentor her, while training at former long jumper Anju Bobby George’s academy Sports Authority of India’ in Bangalore.

“When we see an athlete, we sort of know how she could develop,” her coach George had once said about this young talent, The Hindu reported. The veteran athelete’s belief in Singh is not unfounded, considering her recent impressive jump at the National (Senior) Inter-State Championships in June where she won the event with an effort of 6.48m, which was just 0.08m ahead of her current jump.

“And when I saw Shaili, her muscle formation, her explosiveness, her aggressiveness during the competition, I felt she had all the qualities to be a top jumper,” said the proud coach who is the country’s lone medallist in the world championship in 2005. Anju, along with her husband Robert Bobby George has been training Singh since 2018. They first spotted her at a junior competition in 2017. As a 13-year-old girl weighing barely 38 kg, Singh was jumping a distance of 4.63m, hardly impactful. But what caught his attention, Robert said, was the spark in the young athlete that showed how determined she could be and Anju was excited for she felt they may have finally found the star athlete who could bring the country the elusive Olympic medal.

With some guidance from the coaches though, Singh began to show her potential. The grit helped her overcome several hurdles and she broke the under-16 National Record with a very impressive 5.94m effort at the junior Nationals in Ranchi. Singh became World No. 1 in the under-18 category. She also set a new under-20 record in India.

Who is Shaili Singh?

One of three siblings, Singh has overcome immense struggle financially, as her single mother works as a tailor. Sometimes a day’s meals would a luxury for the poverty-stricken family. “Forget spikes, we could not even afford a pair of normal running shoes,” she had said in an interview. Singh claimed to have started running barefoot and would often return home with blisters on her feet. “My mother would weep at the sight,” she recalled. However, her mother only encouraged the teen to pursue sports, Singh had said in another interview.

The aspiring athlete moved nearly 1,700 km from Jhansi to Bengaluru to train better. “This girl is made for the long jump,” Anju was quoted as saying. Initially, deemed as a prodigy in Indian athletics, today, Singh is the under-18 World No. 2, a feat she achieved this year, the under-20 Indian record holder, and the National champion in the women’s section. She jumped a distance of 6.48m and grabbed the World No. 1 position in under-18 for the 2021 season in June. Singh is 1.69m tall and though young, she is mentally very strong. She has clarity about everything, her elated coach said about the brightest athlete she has ever trained.

Shaili Singh will now be seen in action at the final event of World Athletics U20 Championship on Sunday, August 22.

Feature Image Credit: Sportstar

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