Praveen Kumar in action at the Fazza International Championships in Dubai
Praveen Kumar in action at the Fazza International Championships in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Teenage high jumpers Praveen Kumar and Nishad Kumar produced personal bests to take gold and set Asian records as the curtains came down on the 12th Fazza International Championships — Dubai 2021 World Para Athletics Grand Prix.

Praveen’s and Nishad’s winning efforts were the high points on the final day for India who also had three silvers and a bronze on the concluding day and end their campaign at the Championships with a total of 23 medals.

At the end of the competition, India were among the top finishers on the medals’ table with Thailand returning home with 34 medals, while Turkey, Kenya and India finished with 23 medals apiece. The hosts UAE ended with 14 medals including two silvers by their Paralympic medallist middle-distance racer Mohammad Al Hammadi.

After a stellar show from the Indian javelin throwers on the penultimate day at the Dubai Club for People of Determination, expectations were high from the high jumpers and they didn’t disappoint.

Eighteen-year-old Praveen’s 2.05m jump was enough for a new Asian record and hand him the gold in the men’s high jump F42/44/64 category. The teen finished ahead of former Asian Para Games gold medallist and fellow Indian Sharad Kumar (1.76m) and Hamada Hassan, who also cleared a height of 1.76m.

“I managed a very good jump today. I am very happy that I got my personal best here. After so long I was competing, so I was a bit nervous. But all my hard work paid off here. Also thanks to my coach Satyapal Sir who has been guiding me in my training,” said the 2019 World Junior silver medallist.

With one hurdle out of the way, Praveen next turned his attention to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games to be held later this summer.

“I want to win the gold in Tokyo. And to achieve this, I will need to work very hard and achieve my target,” he said.

This was Praveen’s first senior international gold in only his second senior event after the Dubai 2019 Worlds where he had booked a quota with his fourth-place finish.

In one of the last events of the day, Nishad, who already has booked a quota for India with his bronze medal finish at the Dubai 2019 Worlds, leapt to his personal best 2.06m for the gold and an Asian record in the men’s high jump T46/47.

The promising star from India was better than Thailand’s Angkarn Chanaboon (1.93m) and Omadbek Khasanov of Uzbekistan (1.90m).

Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President Dr. Deepa Malik was proud of what the squad has achieved during the four-day competition that concluded late on Saturday. “Our Para athletes have made us really very proud. This Championships was important in regard to their returning back to shape in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, besides giving exposure to a few new faces,” she said. “The Championship was also the season opener for Para Athletics after more than a year’s gap, so a good performance will definitely boost their confidence. We are delighted that our athletes delivered what was expected from them.”

Earlier, Simran won her second medal in the Championships — a silver in women’s 400m T13 final while crossing the finish line in 1:01.56. Simran already had a gold in the women’s 100m T13 a day earlier.

Bhagyashri Mahavir Jadhav claimed the silver in women’s shot put F34 with a throw of 6.18m, finishing second to Morocco’s Saida Amoudi (8,33m), while Atul Kaushik claimed the bronze in the Men’s discus F57 event with a throw of 42.00m.

The final day also witnessed a world record that was set by Morocco’s Hind Frioua in club 397g women final F31/32/51 with a throw of 20.45m.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Sandeep Chaudhary also did not disappoint as he went on to clinch gold with a throw of 61.22m in the javelin F44 category. It was at this same venue that Chaudhary had clinched gold in 2019 World Para Athletic Championship with a record throw of 66.18m and sealed his berth for Tokyo 2020.

“It’s a nice feeling to return to one of my favourite grounds. My body felt good to compete after a long time. But I was hoping to get my personal best today. Nevertheless, to open the season with over 61m distance is not bad,” said an elated Chaudhary, who interestingly had also made his international debut at the Dubai Club grounds in the 2015 edition of Fazza Para Athletics. “Yes, I have special memories at this ground. This was an important event for a lot of players as this is the last chance to attain Tokyo 2020 slots. The event will also help us all get into the competition mode after the pandemic has put a halt to events for more than a year. I am happy to finally compete now.”