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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Despite travel restrictions, Sreeshankar is on track for Olympic success

Sreeshankar, the only long jumper from India to have made the Tokyo cut, has been training at his hometown. However, he’d have preferred to be in Europe at the moment.

Written by Andrew Amsan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 22, 2021 11:14:58 pm
Long jumper Sreeshankar participated in the 3rd leg of the Indian Grand Prix, winning gold with 7.74 metres.Long jumper Sreeshankar is looking at taking part in some competitions in the Asian circuit, if not in Europe. (Express File Photo)

India’s best long jumper Sreeshankar Murali had his training and competition schedule planned down to every minute detail. He even factored in the pandemic, when training resumed in October 2020, in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. But the national record holder did not foresee that his plans would get derailed by the second Covid-19 wave that has wreaked havoc all over the country.

The man from the Palakkad district in Kerala is the only long jumper from India to have made the Tokyo-cut, securing a berth with an 8.26m leap at the Federation Cup in March. Since then the 21-year-old, coached by his father Murali – a former triple jumper – has been training at his hometown. However, he’d have preferred to be in Europe at the moment.

“We had planned every minute detail. The micro-macro seconds in October itself. This Covid second wave was totally out of the syllabus,” Sreeshankar says during a SAI-facilitated press conference on Saturday.

“As per our plan, we should have been in Europe at the moment. The moment the cases started going up my father said our chances of going out were becoming bleak and there may be travel restrictions. He guessed it right.”

READ | Sreeshankar is India’s best, still capable of much more: Robert Bobby George

But the travel roadblock hasn’t left the wiry-framed BSc in Mathematics student dejected. Instead he’s shifted his attention on making use of whatever resources are available.

“If I get international competitions, that would be great. But If things don’t work out I will be happy competing in domestic events,” he says. “I am in talks with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and they are trying to get me an entry for (events in) Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. If I get there, at least it would be of great help.”

‘We have a chance to medal’

He did not celebrate after that big leap in March that booked his Tokyo ticket. He was overcome with a great sense of relief but knew making the cut was just a minor part of his overall plan of getting as close to a podium place as possible. The father-son duo immediately went to the drawing board and identified technical flaws that needed to be ironed out.

“We had to mainly increase the speed of the last five strides,” Murali told The Indian Express.

“We also worked on increasing his hang-time. He has to be in the air longer to cover more distance. Then a lot of work was done on strength training – lots of half-squats to strengthen his lower half especially the legs. We are planning to set up a proper gym at home itself. He is in very good shape now and by July he will peak.”

READ | Would Sreeshankar have won an Olympic medal with his 8.26 metre jump?

The youngster’s personal best of 8.26m would have earned him gold in any of the previous editions of the Asian Games, and a fourth spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But coach Murali has set a target of 8.30m for his son – which could fetch at least an historic bronze at the Games.

“I was watching a German meet last night and most international athletes’ performances have gone down. Some jumpers were a metre behind their personal best. Sreeshankar has landed a few 8.30-8.22m jumps in practice and I have a feeling we have a chance for a third or second spot,” Murali added.

Training at home has yielded impressive results, but Murali feels an international training stint would further boost his chances at the Games.

“Three people succumbed to the virus in my area last week,” Sreeshankar says.

“It’s a tough situation for me but I have to keep training. I know the responsibility I have towards the country as a sportsperson. I am fully committed and I take all precautions to keep myself safe. One positive thing is that I have received my first dose of the vaccine and hopefully I will get my second shot before the Games.”

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