KANGAR: R. Kirthana only took up the triple jump event a year ago, but the Perak teen has been on fire in competitions this year.
The Form Five student of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) leaped to a personal best of 13.06m en route to winning the gold medal in the Asian Zone Qualifying competition in Bangkok on Wednesday to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing from Aug 16-24.
For her efforts in Bangkok, she also surpassed the 12.90m mark to qualify for the IAAF World Junior championships in Eugene, United States, from July 22-27.
Kirthana, who needed to win the gold medal in Bangkok to qualify for the Youth Olympics, leaped to 12.80m in the first attempt.
She improved to 12.85m in her second jump and managed 12.75m in the third attempt.
But she was in top form in the last three attempts as she kept improving her mark – 12.91m, 13.03m and 13.06m – to win the gold.
This is the third time in two months that she has improved her personal best.
She created a new personal best of 12.80m en route to winning the gold medal in the Pre-Malaysia Games (Sukma) meet in Bukit Jalil on March 22.
Two weeks later in Ipoh, she further improved her personal best by 2cm (to 12.82m) to break the Perak Sports Schools meet record of 12.70m.
The 17-year-old Kirthana said in a telephone interview on Thursday that she was thrilled to surpass the 13m mark.
“I was confident of improving my personal best but never expected to improve the mark by 24cm to win the gold medal,” said Kirthana, who only managed 12.23m to finish fourth in the Asian Junior Games in Nanjing last August.
Kirthana said that it was double joy for her to also qualify for the World Junior meet.
“It has been a splendid year for me as I have improved my mark three times in two months.
“I owe it all to my parents for their support and coach Zainal Abas for improving my technique.
“I started my career as a sprinter but switched to the triple jump a year ago at the advice of coach Zainal and it paid off handsomely,” said Kirthana, who also wanted to compete in the long jump event in the Asian Qualifying Zone on Thursday.
However, she was unable to do so as each athlete is only allowed to compete in one event.
Kirthana, who will return from Bangkok on Friday, is in high spirits and intends to give her best at the Perlis Sukma.
“I will be competing in three events in Sukma and my mission is to further improve my mark in the triple jump to win the gold medal in Perlis,” said Kirthana, who will also feature in long jump and 4x100m.