NEW DELHI: Naturally, Vijaypal Singh would dearly love to meet and congratulate the man who broke his national pole vault record of 5.10 metres set over a quarter century ago. KP Benin, with the help of a borrowed fibre glass pole, leaped 5.13m in the Inter-Railway meet at the Tantya Tope Stadium, Bhopal, last Thursday. Benin, 27, would have barely learnt to walk when Vijaypal set his record at the 1987 National Games in Thiruvananthapuram. Surprised to learn that Benin, a Southern Railway employee, has no fibre glass pole of his own to practice with and lacks a proper modern training environment, the 46-year-old Vijaypal, a traffic inspector in Dwarka, south-west Delhi, wonders whatever has happened to the hundreds of poles imported before the 2010 Commonwealth Games. There can be no one better than Vijaypal to understand the problems faced by Benin, who says he aims to qualify to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. The Hisar-born Vijaypal, winner of the gold medal at the 1985 world junior athletic meet in Athens with a leap of 5 metres, repeatedly suffered injuries in his early years as a pole-vaulter. Injured during a training session at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium during a training session when he landed outside the pit, resulted in a premature end to his competitive career. Vijaypal also lacked expert coaching till he had a chance meeting with a certain Jordan Korell, who happened to be visiting Delhi as a tourist. Those tips imparted by the American pole-vaulter in his brief stay in Delhi dramatically transformed Vijaypal from being a school-level bamboo pole jumper to a competitive national level medal-winning athlete. Surely, Benin’s Railway employers can’t say they don’t have the resources to help him, and also others like him, lift their standards. To come up to Olympic standards Benin will have to clear the bar 40 to 50 cm higher.
By: K DattaK Datta