National record holder Sreeshankar opens international season with silver in France

Sreeshankar took the silver with a wind-aided 7.93m at the Pierre-Benite Envol meet in Lyon, France.

National long jump record holder M. Sreeshankar signing autographs after winning the silver medal in his international season-opener in Lyon, France.

With kids crowding around him for autographs, young long jumper M. Sreeshankar had his first taste of how attractive athletics competitions in Europe could be.

The 20-year-old opened his international season at Lyon, France on Friday and he took the silver with a wind-aided 7.93m at the Pierre-Benite Envol meet. Frenchman Raihau Maiau, a former World University Games bronze medallist, took the gold with 7.94m.

“It was very cold and windy.  I’ll be taking part in three meets during this trip and we have set a target of 8m since I’m coming back after the heel injury,” Sreeshankar said on Saturday.

Two of his best jumps, 7.93 and 7.87, had winds above +3.0 and he recorded a best of 7.79m within legal wind limits.

Sreeshankar has already qualified for this September’s IAAF World Championships with his 8.20m jump, the senior national record, which came with the Open National gold in Bhubaneswar late last year, and he hopes to be an early bird for next year’s Tokyo Olympics by making the cut (8.22m) next month.

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“The plan is to qualify for the Olympics at the Almaty meet on July 6 or at the inter-State Nationals after that.”

The meet, a jumps-only event, attracted some big names, including pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie.

“It was wonderful watching Lavillenie from so close. And there was a big crowd,” said Sreeshankar who is accompanied by his father-and-coach S. Murali who has helped him become the country’s best long jumper. 

Lavillenie, who is returning from an injury, did not have a good day however, finishing sixth (5.45m) with his younger brother Valentin flying away with the gold at 5.81m.

Sreeshankar, who is supported by Government’s Target Olympic Podium scheme (TOPS), will next be in action in Copenhagen, Denmark on Tuesday and later at the Sopot Grand Prix in Poland on June 23.