Karthik hopeful of picking Tokyo ticket

Life not easy for jumpers without a national coach, says champion triple jumper Karthik Unnikrishnan.

Triple jumper Karthik Unnikrishnan during a training session.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Karthik Unnikrishnan has been following the Word Athletics' Road to Tokyo rankings closely the last few weeks. Only 32 athletes are allowed in a field event at the Oympics and in triple jump the 27-year-old has dropped a rung and is now on 36.

But he is not overly worried.

“I was 35 two days ago but I'm not trying to improve my ranking, my aim is to do the automatic qualification mark, something like 17.30m and I'm confident of achieving it,” said Unnikrishnan, the Federation Cup champion, in a chat with Sportstar from his Air Force base in Bengaluru.

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“I'm in good form but I need competitions, anywhere. If I get competitions next month, I can do it.”

Romanian Bedros Bedrosian, the former Indian coach for jumps who has now moved to Bahrain, feels that Unnikrishnan is capable of achieving the Tokyo standard of 17.14m.

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“Karthik should not think about rankings, in one month many may cross 17.14m and I'm sure he is capable of doing it too,” said Bedrosian from Antalya (Turkey) where he has now taken the Bahraini athletes for a camp.

“He can win at next year's Asian Games. Last year, just before lockdown, he jumped 16.73m without full approach. In the Federation Cup (in Patiala, March, where he did 16.73m), I felt he was very tight, too much power, not much elasticity, his jumps were flat. The long coronavirus break had hurt him. He is is an explosive jumper, is capable of doing a lot better.”

Strangely, despite producing the country's lone World Championship medallist Anju Bobby George (2003, long jump bronze, Paris) and the current Asian Games triple jump champion Arpinder Singh and a bunch of very talented jumpers like M. Sreeshankar, the country still does not have a national coach for jumps after Bedrosian left last July.

“Had we had a coach for a continuous stretch, I would have crossed 17m. That's the main problem and that's why many of our top jumpers are inconsistent,” said the Palakkad-born Unnikrishnan, who was hit by COVID-19 last month and is now training under M. Harikrishnan, a former national-level long jumper. He is now out of the national camp as the focus there is on athletes who have qualified for Tokyo or who are likely to do so before the June 29 deadline.

And now, though there is uncertainty over next month's Grand Prix and International competitions in Bengaluru, Unnikrishnan feels the Athletics Federation of India would hold some last-minute meets in Patiala and offer athletes another chance of booking a Tokyo ticket.

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