As he took off with eight metres in his mind at the Indian Grand Prix in May, long jumper M. Sreeshanker felt a sudden, painful pull. He landed hard on one leg and a few moments later, realised that it was a hamstring pull.
That took away nearly four months and though he had not fully recovered from the injury, the 18-year-old managed a fantastic 7.72m jump in the 33rd National junior athletics championships at Mangalagiri the other day.
That was one of the best performances of the championships and it carried the Kerala youngster to the 29th spot in the under-20 world list this season.
“He is doing around 7.80m during training, we could have tried 8m once again but because he is just back from the injury, we didn’t push too hard,” said his dad and coach S. Murali, a former international.
Robert Bobby George, who coached his wife Anju George to the long jump bronze at the 2003 Worlds in Paris, feels that Sreeshanker could be getting the big ones in a couple of years.
“I think he can touch eight metres in about two years, no doubt. He is a natural jumper and if you look at his talent, body language, character and attitude, he appears to be the complete package. And he has been consistent too,” Bobby George told The Hindu on Tuesday.
“Both his parents are athletes (his mother was a good middle-distance runner) and he has a science background, he is an engineering student, that’s an advantage for him, it will make him understand his sport better. Technical events are all about science and engineering mechanics.”
Bobby George feels that at the global level, the field events stand a very good chance of bringing medals for India with probably the 400m and 800m being small exceptions.
Tamil Nadu triple jumpers K. Kamalraj (16.41m, under-20)and Mani Raj (15.83, under-18) also came with big jumps and with the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games lined up next year, there was much excitement.
“If everything goes as planned, Kamalraj should be doing something like 17m around the Asian Games time and 17.50m by the 2020 Olympics. And I’m not joking, I mean it, seriously,” said Romanian Bedros Bedrosian who has been training the 18-year-old in Thiruvananthapuram. “And I would like to have Mani Raj in my camp, he appears very talented too.”
Before one gets carried away, one must mention here that a lot of young long and triple jumpers have raised hopes before fading away in the last couple of years.
“For now, the focus is the 2018 under-20 Worlds. I hope to do something above 16.80 next year,” said Kamalraj.
“I had to travel nearly 70 kms every day from my home in Tiruppur to Coimbatore and that was one of the main reasons why I moved to the national camp.”
While the regular stars like quartermilers Amoj Jacob and Jisna Mathew lived up to expectations, Haryana high jumper Rubina Yadav provided to be another find of the Junior Nationals.
Jumping rather effortlessly despite the extreme heat, Rubina improved her personal best by five centimetres, from 1.76m to 1.81.
“I’m sure I can qualify for the Junior Worlds from next year’s early meets and I want to break the senior national record of 1.92,” said Rubina.
The young girl seems to be in a hurry, one just hopes she stays around for long, mesmerising us with her high flying.
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