Ankit Sharma nonchalant about record jump

Long jumper Ankit Sharma has said he aimed solely to qualify for the upcoming Olympics and not to break any record at the athletics meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in an interaction ahead of the Indian Grand Prix athletics competition. Ankit broke the national record, besides qualifying for Rio Olympics, with his three leaps of 8.17m, 8.19m and 8.14m at the qualification event held last month.

Ankit Sharma (left) and his coach Bedros Bedrosian at a media interaction in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

World over, long jump records are always considered among the toughest to break. In India, T. C. Yohanan’s national record (8.07m) stood for 30 years until Amrit Pal Singh bettered it in 2004. Singh’s record (8.08) in turn stood for another nine years before K. Premkumar (8.09) surpassed it in 2013.

Set in this context, Ankit Sharma’s three leaps of 8.17m, 8.19m and 8.14m in Almaty, Kazakhstan recently are nothing short of stupendous. It helped him make the cut for the Rio Games – 8.15m being the qualification mark – as well as rewrite the National record.

“Records weren’t my target,” he replied rather nonchalantly on Saturday, ahead of the Indian Grand Prix athletics competition. “They keep getting broken and re-made. My aim was to qualify. To do more than 8.20m which my coach had set for me and for which I was capable. I was trying but there were a few fouls. But now I am at peace. The first step has been successful. The next is to reach the final.”

Ankit is only one of five Indians ever to breach the 8-metre mark. Early this year he won the gold medal at the South Asian Games. Yet, his performance, especially the jump of 8.19m, has floored many.

Good weather

“The weather was good,” he said. “Three Indians qualified there. Another reason was that the track was a bit quick. Third reason was the level of the field. Some were jumping 8.26m and some 8.16m. The level was higher.

“My aim was not to beat all these athletes. Everyone was performing according to their capability. I wanted to do that as well. There was one from Iran who jumped 8.16 just before me. I had defeated him earlier and I believed I could again. I jumped 8.17 and then 8.19."

Ankit explained that the altitude in Almaty also helped him. “It was like Bangalore,” he said. “May be not like Mexico, but more like here. One day earlier, the coach timed my run [approach]. It was the best of my life. For 40m it was 3.95s.”

“There weren’t many major changes,” said Romanian Bedros Bedrosian, India’s national jump coach. “We just fine-tuned certain things so that he peaked at the right time.”

Bedrosian had last year said that anyone who could jump between 8.20m and 8.30m could win a medal in Rio and Ankit’s eyes are firmly set on that. Will he try to crack 8.20m here? “We have had to travel in the past two days. It might have an effect. I can’t say if 8.19m will become 8.20m. But the result, if I participate, will be good.”