M. Sreeshankar hopeful of international competition before Tokyo

The 22-year-old long jumper is targetting a distance of 8.35-8.40m in Tokyo and is confident of achieving it.

M. Sreeshankar has already qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo. - AP

Murali Sreeshankar is luckier than many Indian athletes at the moment. He has already qualified for Tokyo Olympics, can stay within the comforts of his home, and can train in familiar surroundings without any restrictions. But like everyone else, he desperately needs competitions.

The 22-year old long jumper, though, is staying positive about the next two months. “My preparations are going fine. It’s been much like pre-season training for me; the only concern, as for all Indian athletes, is being unable to go abroad for training or competitions due to the travel restrictions,” he said during an interaction from Palakkad.

“Soon after the Federation Cup (in March, where he qualified with a new national record of 8.26m) we listed out the technicalities of all the areas I might be lacking in and we have been working hard on them for the past six-eight weeks. It’s a big challenge but the life of an athlete is all about challenges and let’s see how I overcome it,” he added.

The youngster is targeting a distance of 8.35-8.40m in Tokyo and is confident of achieving it. “Actually at Patiala itself I think my tip-to-toe was around 8.35m and I had around 10cm to spare on the board. Also, the track there is not as fast as Tokyo, which has the Mondo track, the best in the world and quite fast.

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“Also, my improvement from 8.20 (in 2018) to 8.26m has been because of improved capabilities, strength, and speed, not assisted by conditions or atmosphere. Once those aspects also come into play it will get even better,” he explained.

While the upcoming Indian Grand Prix 4 and the Inter-State Championships remain on the radar, Sreeshankar is keen on international outings. “I am ideally looking forward to competing in Europe but if not then to compete at least on the Asian circuit, in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, because the international circuit is a different level for getting mentally prepared (he is also working with SAI psychologist Bhawna Chauhan).

“In 2019 (at World Championships) I was suddenly with all the best jumpers in the world whom I had only seen on videos till then and got anxious. But now I have experience. However, if that doesn’t happen then definitely I will be there at IGP 4 and Inter-State because to stimulate a competitive atmosphere, domestic meets will also help.”

The ongoing pandemic has been impossible to ignore and while Sreeshankar is aware of the scale of the tragedy – “within my surroundings we have lost three lives in a week” he revealed – he is also aware of the magnitude of expectations.

“I know my responsibilities as a sportsman to the country and am committed 100 percent to fulfil the expectations people have from me. Nothing else comes in my mind while training, I just need to be perfectly safe and healthy in the coming days,” he said.

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