On this day 48 years ago, India's TC Yohannan became first Asian to jump 8 metres

TC Yohannan
TC Yohannan's golden leap in the 1974 Tehran Asian Games (left). Yohannan (centre) on the podium with Japan's Takayoshi Kawagoe (left) and Satish Pillai. Photos: Manorama Archives

Today is a special day in Indian athletics. Exactly 48 years ago on this day, India's Malayali long jumper TC Yohannan became the first Asian to leap over 8 metres in the continental event.

His historic leap (8.07m) in the 1974 Tehran Asian Games gave India a gold medal in the men's long jump event.

The feat was automatically a national record and had remained unchallenged for 30 years until Amritpal Singh bettered it (8.08m).

Indian long jump has progressed a great deal since and the current national record is 8.36m held by another Malayali M Sreeshankar.

Incidentally, Sreeshankar's best jump in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham that fetched him a silver was 8.08m, just 1cm better than Yohannan's triumphant jump almost half a century ago.

The golden jump

Yohannan had said in an earlier interview that he was injured in practice before the finals in Tehran. The big toe on his right leg was hurting and Yohannan reportedly had to take painkillers to be able to compete.

It was his fourth jump that scaled the record distance. Japan's Takayoshi Kawagoe (7.77) took silver while another Malayali, Satish Pillai (7.58m) had secured bronze then.

Yohannan had said later how the toe was swollen overnight and left him sleepless.


Baptism by water!
Yohannan was the youngest of six children of Chandapillai and Saramma in the Maranadu Village near Ezhukone in Kerala's Kollam district.

Once on the way to school, he was challenged by friends to jump across a modest irrigation canal. The offer was a glass of lemonade. But Yohannan failed and was drenched.

Back home, he told his parents what happened. Instead of scolding him, Yohannan's father took him to the spot and urged him to try again. The offer was still valid. He succeeded after repeated tries and earned his prize.

Yohannan later said that the incident proved to be an inspiration in his athletic career. Yohannan's son Tinu became a fast bowler and became the first Keralite to play Test cricket.

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