Promising pole vaulter Kuldeep Kumar wins bronze in Asian youth championships with borrowed equipment

Four long years of struggle finally bore fruit for Kuldeep Kumar, a teenager from a village near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Because at the recently ended Asian Athletics Youth Championships in Kuwait, he won pole vault bronze.

The 17-year-old Lionheart stayed focused during his first international competition to scale a height of 15 feet on borrowed equipment and win bronze. Gold medalist Qatar overcame 5.10m while silver medalist Iran overcame 5m.

“I struggled a bit in the first three jumps but stayed calm to finally get on the podium,” said the bronze medalist.

Hardened by the circumstances, UP’s promising youngster wanted to prove to the critics in Kuwait that in the end it’s all about the ‘will to win’.

The promising jumper had joined Bengaluru’s National Center of Excellence (NCOE) in April but was unable to obtain new poles (equipment) for the competition. However, timely support from a senior athlete, Anuj Kumar, who also trains at the same venue in Bengaluru, was a blessing in disguise.

“Hiring poles didn’t bother me too much as I was determined to do my best in my first major international competition,” said Kumar.

Standing at 4.80m tall, UP’s promising athlete qualified for the Asia meeting during the National Youth Athletics Championships held in Bhopal earlier this month. Armed with a determination to prove himself in the first major competition of his burgeoning sports career, his goal was a podium finish, which he achieved.

“I could have run more than 15 feet but a strain in my right leg stopped my progress,” the bronze medalist told Sportskeeda. “It was a good environment to scale new heights. I tried my best, but couldn’t get past 4.80 m.”


Kuldeep Kumar’s emergence

Kuldeep Kumar was originally a high jumper. He won silver in the U-16 age group at the 2021 National Athletics Junior Championships in Guwahati.

“His ability to clear 1.80m is a huge asset when he competes in the pole vault,” said Kumar’s older brother Dhirender.

However, Kumar wanted to take up pole vaulting as his older brother is a national level athlete and his cousins ​​also pole vault. In April of that year, he joined Bengaluru’s NCOE.

“It gave him a chance to pole vault as there were better training facilities on the SAI campus,” added Dhirender.

Dhirender is also a national level pole vaulter and placed fourth at the National Open Athletics Championships in Bengaluru.

According to Dhirender, his younger brother was staying in a rented apartment in Allahabad to play sports.

“There are neither academic nor sporting facilities in our village. So we rented a room for Kuldeep to practice near the main stadium in Allahabad,” added Dhirender.

SAI officials in Bengaluru tried to get two new poles for Kuldeep Kumar, but the equipment arrived at the eleventh hour.

“It takes time to get used to new equipment. So I borrowed sticks for the Asia meeting,” said the teenage pole vaulter.

Pole vaulting is a very technical event and it takes time to get used to the new equipment.

“The athlete has to constantly change poles, which is an important piece of equipment in pole vaulting,” explained Anuj. “Pole vaulters need to invest in new poles on a regular basis. This is because different poles are used in the off-season and in competitions.”

Since most athletes do not have the luxury of buying large numbers of poles, with each pole costing around Rs a lakh, the pole vault is a neglected event, Anuj said:

“The support of the government or Indian Athletics Federation is a must to improve pole vaulting in India.”

Kuldeep Kumar doesn’t want to bask in the laurels of winning bronze at the Asia Youth Rally. He has already shifted his focus to next month’s junior national meeting in Assam.

“I should focus on improving core fitness to be better at pole vaulting,” concluded Kuldeep Kumar.


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Linh

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