Madhya Pradesh pole vaulter Dev Meena scaled a height of 5.16m to clinch the gold medal in the 17th National Games and also to qualify for the World U20 Athletics Championships which will be held next year.
Meena, who hails from Madhya Pradesh’s agricultural belt of Dewas tried to cross the 5.20m mark but failed to do so. However, the youngster said that the competition was a valuable experience for him.
“The World U20 scheduled to be held in Lima will be a good opportunity for me to further scale new heights,” said the youngster who trains at the Madhya Pradesh Athletics Academy in Bhopal.
Meena was earlier a sprinter and his talent was spotted by the talent search team of the Madhya Pradesh government. He was initially selected for sprints but later he showed more interest in the jumping event.
“He (Meena) has good fundamentals to be a jumper, “ Sanjay Garnaik, former head of the Bhopal athletics academy said. “He showed interest in pole vault and has made good progress in the last two years.”
According to Garnaik pole vault is an extremely technical event which takes four to five years to master. He hailed Meena for being a quick learner but feels that he has a long way to go and needs more specialized training.
“Meena has proved to be a good learner. He is always eager to work hard. But there is a process of gradually building up to avoid early burnout,” Garnaik added. “With a more specialised training programme in future, we expect better results from him.”
He stated how getting enrolled on the athletics academy in Bhopal was a turning point in his life “At the village, we don’t have good facilities or coaching to become national-level athletes.”
Garnaik has shifted from Bhopal to Bhubaneswar but he still guides the teenage pole vaulter. He has convinced the Madhya Pradesh government to produce funds for more specialized training in the sport.
“Proper grooming is important. The Madhya Pradesh government has agreed to sanction funds for international exposure. Or for an appointment of a foreign expert for specialisation,” He concluded.
It will be exciting to see Meena perform at the World U20 Athletics Championship next year. India have not had great representation in the pole vault and one would love to see Meena shine.