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Hop, skip, jump, record: Aishwarya Babu takes centre-stage at Inter-State championships

Aishwarya Babu (in pic) set a new national record in the triple jump on Monday. Shyam Vasudevan/ESPN

Aishwarya Babu was the undoubted star of the show for a second day on the trot as she set a national record of 14.14m to win the women's triple jump crown at the Inter-State championships here on Monday. This comes a day after she had become India's second best ever long jumper.

On Monday, the 24-year-old from Bangalore began with a jump of 13.84m [the second-best of the evening], before breaking Mayooka Johny Kobe's record of 14.11m (which stood for 11 years) in her third attempt.

The sparse crowd at the Nehru Stadium cheered on as she sprinted down the runway, hopped, skipped, and leapt into the sand pit. She let out a celebratory roar the second she hit the sand - like she knew immediately that she had achieved something special.

"I expected [to break the NR today]. I was practicing for a big NR only," she says, stressing that "explosive workouts and lots of jumps" had helped her develop her USP: explosive strength.

Her coach Sri Aiyappa concurs. "Her two biggest traits are her speed and explosive ability. She's unbelievably explosive for her short stature and I focused on that and channeled it into her jump. She came to me with an ACL tear in 2019, and it's wonderful that she has come from there to setting the NR today."

Aishwarya was oozing with confidence off the back of that remarkable feat in the long jump on Sunday, when she topped the qualification stages with a leap of 6.73m. That made her India's second-best long jumper ever, behind only the great Anju Bobby George. What makes it even more extraordinary? Long jump isn't something she even trained properly for.

"I will try my best for an NR [tomorrow, in the long jump final]. [But] I was preparing only for the triple jump. I did the long jump as a side event," she says. Before casually adding, "I practised for the long jump just 1-2 days before the meet."

She has qualified for, and will represent, India in both events at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Aiyappa concedes that Aishwarya was mighty surprised with her exploits in the long jump, before saying, "but I wasn't. It was a world-class jump and I feel she can reach 7m soon."

Meanwhile, the progression in distances in her favoured event of triple jump has been special too. From a personal best of 13.55m in September 2021 to this record-breaking jump of 14.14m in June 2022, Aishwarya has improved her PB by nearly 60cm in just 9 months.

"I need to achieve [something]," she says when asked about why she became an athlete. "What I am, I have to show it." She's showing it alright. What she is, is India's jumps queen, and she's proving it one leap at a time.