Bhubaneswar, June 18: Indian long jumper and Commonwealth Games medalist Murali Sreeshankar stole the show on the penultimate day of the 62nd National Inter State Senior Athletics Championship and qualified for the Budapest World Athletics Championship, here on Sunday.
In his opening preliminary round jump, Kerala's 24 years international athlete recorded 8.41m jump to better Budapest World Athletics Championship and Hangzhou Asian Games qualification marks. He also improved his own meet record of 8.23m.
Bhubaneswar's Kalinga stadium has been lucky for Sreeshankar. He first broke the 8m barrier at the same venue in 2018.
His father-cum-coach S Murali was hopeful his son would further improve the mark in the medal round on Monday. "He could do better in the final," Sreeshankar's father said.
While the World Championship qualification mark was 8.25m, the Athletics Federation of India qualification criteria set for Asian Games was 7.95m.
Tamil Nadu's Jeswin Aldrin, another leading jumper this season, best jump in qualification was 7.83m. Jeswin's personal best recorded earlier in March was 8.42m.
Muhammed Anees Yahiya of Kerala (7.71m) is also among 12 athletes in the final. The men's long jump final is expected to be a major attraction on Monday.
The women's long jump qualification round was also the main attraction in the morning session. The leading three jumpers --Ancy Sojan (6.49m), Nayana James (6.31m) and Shaili Singh (6.27m) achieved the Asian Games qualification mark of 6.45m. The final is scheduled for Monday.
Away from the jumping arena, the men javelin throw qualification round saw good performance by Odisha's Kishore Kumar Jena. His best throw of 79.96m was better than the Asian Games qualification mark of 78.23m.
Shivpal Singh (79.35m) and Anuj Kalera (79.04m) were other two throwers whose preliminary round performance was inside the Asian Games qualification round.
Rohit Yadav (76.32m) and Manu DP (76.21m), the two main contenders for the podium were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the qualification round and advanced to the final.
The men's 1500m opening heat saw three runners ---Ajay Kumar Saroj (3:44.13 secs), Yoonus Shah (3:44.22 secs) and Sachelal Patel (3:44.33 secs) dip inside the Asian Games qualification time of 3:47.84 seconds.
Olympian and national record holder Jinson Johnson clocked 3:48.83 secs in third heat to advance to the final.
The women's 800m final is expected to be keenly contested. It was easy passage for both KM Deeksha and Harmilan Bains, considered strong medal contenders, to the final round.
KM Chanda and Lili Das were other two prominent runners to have advanced to the medal round.
Tamil Nadu's R Vithya Ramraj also gave a good account of herself in the women's 400m hurdles qualification round to post a time of 57.23 seconds which was better than the Asian Games qualification mark of 57.48 seconds.
It was also easy for India's star thrower Tajinderpal Singh Toor in the men's shot put preliminary round. Assam's Amlan Borgohain (21.37 secs) emerged the fastest male runner in the 200m heats. Akash Kumar of Uttar Pradesh (21.48 secs) was the second fastest runner to advance to the final.
Odisha's Srabani Nanda will be one to watch in the women's 200m final. She clocked 24.31 secs in heats.