National Games 2022: Rosy Paulraj breaks pole vaulting NR two years after taking up the sport

Pole vaulter Rosy Meena Paulraj may have broken the national record on Saturday but a day prior she wasn’t even sure if she would reach the venue. The Tamil Nadu vaulter, who cleared the bar at 4.20m and broke Sureka Renjit’s 8-year-old record, missed her train from Chennai due a confusion over timings.

“I thought the train was at 10:30 but when I reached there it had already left,” she said after her triumph on Saturday at the IIT Gandhinagar facilities in Gujarat. Booking a train later that day wasn’t a viable option and Rosy almost gave up on her plans to reach Gujarat.

She called up her father Paulraj, a music teacher in Thanjavur, to inform him about the missed train. “He didn’t yell or lose his temper. He just asked me if I would still like to go. And within minutes he borrowed money and arranged a flight ticket for me,” says Rosy.

After the award ceremony when Rosy sat down with the medal around her neck, she couldn’t hold back her tears. Breaking the national record was her target ever since she took up vaulting, even though she took up the sport late. It was only in 2019 after stints with gymnastics and even javelin that the 25-year-old discovered her true love.

“I was in the second year of my college and a young vaulter who had trained in Chennai came to our place. That is the first time I saw how the sport was done. I did not know that the pole could be bent and could generate enough energy to send a person into the air,” she says.

At 23, taking up an entirely new sport did not seem like a wise idea to most. When she first met her current coach Milber Bertrand Russell, even he wasn’t pleased with the idea because she is relatively short at 5 foot and two inches. But once Rosy puts her mind to something she doesn’t budge easily.

“I told her that her height wasn’t ideal for a pole vaulter but she didn’t think it would be a hindrance. She spoke to me for 10 mins and her willpower convinced me to take her in,” says Russell, a former fitness trainer.

Switching to pole vault was smoother for her because of her background in gymnastics, an area where she has won several medals at the junior level. “I always wanted to do a sport where I go in the air and that is why I tried gymnastics. I had already conquered the fear of falling from heights while doing gymnastics so it was a great help in vaulting,” she explained.

Coincidentally, Sureka Renjit, whose record Rosy broke on Saturday, has played a pivotal role in both coach Russell and her ward’s career so far. After the birth of her second child, Sureka came to Russell for fitness training in a bid to return back to competition. “She went on to break the national record and that gave me the confidence to think about coaching seriously. I sat down and studied the nuances of the sport”, says Russell, a former vaulter himself.

Rosy, who has been struggling to find a steady source of income ever since moving to Chennai, has been offered a glimmer of hope by Sureka. Although Indian Railways are hesitant on signing up athletes beyond 25, Surekha recommended Rosy’s case.

“I have applied a few times already and they rejected my case citing my age. But Sureka akka has put in a lot of effort. I am hopeful of receiving my appointment letter soon. She believes in my talent and has always encouraged me to do well,” says Rosy.

Despite having a history of changing sports, Rosy promises she won’t be shifting again. “I have not set huge targets for myself now. I just want to represent India in an international event next,” she says.

Jeswin back in form

After a disappointing show at the World Championships, earlier this year in Oregon US, long jumper Jeswin Aldrin has ended his season with an 8.26m leap that earns him automatic qualification for the next edition of the Worlds. Jeswin is coming fresh from a stint in Europe under JSW’s Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos.

Long jumper Jeswin Aldrin qualifies for 2023 World Championship with a 8.26m (8.25m qualification mark) leap in his final attempt at the National Game. (Express Photo)

“I was under a lot of pressure earlier. The main idea of this training tour was to ease me. I did a lot of fun activities and got time to reboot myself. But we never stopped training,” says Jeswin. The 20-year-old bagged the gold ahead of Commonwealth Games silver medallist Sreeshankar Murali (7.93m) who withdrew after his second jump due to a muscle strain.

“Achieving the qualification mark for Worlds early gives a sense of relief. Now I don’t have to constantly think about it,” says the youngster who will head home to Tamil Nadu for a short but well-deserved break.

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