Nayana James eyes Anju Bobby George’s national record

Nayana James
Nayana James wins the gold medal in the Federation Cup at Kozhikode. File photo: Manorama/Fahad Muneer

Four years ago, long jumper Nayana James suffered one of the biggest setbacks of her career when she managed only 6.14m and finished 10th in the Jakarta Asian Games. The athlete hailing from Kozhikode had only two successful jumps even as her state teammate Neena V won the silver medal with an effort of 6.51m. It was a tough period for Nayana as she was troubled by injuries.

More miseries piled up as it was followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant there were very few domestic competitions.

But egged on by her cricketer-husband Kevin Peter Oscar, Nayana trained hard.

And now, the 26-year-old has made her presence felt by winning the gold in the recent Federation Cup and Indian Grand Prix 4.

Nayana staved off the challenge from young Kerala jumpers Ancy Sojan (6.33m) and Sandra Babu (6.32m) to emerge victorious in the Federation Cup at Kozhikode. The gold-medal-winning jump of 6.47m also helped her qualify for the Hangzhou Asian Games which has been postponed to next year owing to the COVID-19 situation in China.

“I have been happy with my performances. I missed the CWG (Commonwealth Games) qualifying mark (6.5m) by just three centimetres in the Federation Cup. I have been troubled by sciatic nerve pain and hence could manage only 6.37m (twice) at Bhubaneswar (in Indian GP 4),” Nayana told Onmanorama over the phone.

The senior nationals to be held in Chennai from June 10 to June 14 will be Nayana’s final chance to qualify for next month’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Kevin Peter Oscar & Nayana James
Nayana James with her cricketer-husband Kevin Peter Oscar. Photo: By Special Arrangement

Nayana, who has a personal best of 6.55m, has been seeking Kerala State Sports Council coach P B Jaikumar’s guidance in Thiruvananthapuram since last July. “I used to work out and do drills at home during the first wave of the pandemic before training under Jaikumar sir at the start of the season. Kevin has been my biggest source of strength during the tough phase. Mentally it makes a huge change,” said Nayana, who is employed with the Income Tax Department in Chennai as Inspector.

The women’s long jump scene in the country is looking bright with World Under-20 silver medallist Shaili Singh along with Ancy and Sandra pushing the experienced rivals.

“It’s good to compete with these youngsters. They stretch you, but I have the advantage of being experienced. My target is to break the national record (6.83m set by Anju Bobby George) and ultimately touch the 7m mark,” added Nayana. 

That will take some doing, but Nayana is upbeat.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.