Eight months ago, when he returned to the country after a disappointing Olympics, M. Sreeshankar was a shattered youngster. Something had gone terribly wrong and the long jumper could only manage 7.69m in Tokyo.
Tough scrutiny awaited the national record holder and his dad-cum-coach S. Murali when they returned home. The Athletics Federation of India ordered that Murali should stop coaching his son and that Sreeshankar should join the national camp. But the youngster continued to quietly train with his dad.
It was a harsh world then. And the 23-year-old was heartbroken every time his dad was blamed for the Tokyo flop.
“It was a tough road, especially for dad. But the mental torture has made me and dad quite strong now,” said Sreeshankar in chat with The Hindu from Palakkad on Thursday.
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“That’s really helping me this season. I didn’t feel the pressure at all during the Federation Cup.”
The Federation Cup, in Malappuram recently, offered a glimpse of what Sreeshankar is capable of when he is at his best. He broke his national record by 10cms, taking it to 8.36m which made him the world's best long jumper outdoors this year.
With that, Sreeshankar erased all the pain his dad had gone through in the last eight months. Thrown out of the national camp after the Olympics, Murali had taken leave from his employer Railways to train his talented son. The coach has now proved himself too.
Sreeshankar and Murali will soon rejoin the jumpers national camp in Bengaluru.
“The camp list is yet to come, mostly we will join next week,” said Sreeshankar.
And the new national jumps coach, Russian Denis Kapustin – the 2000 Sydney Olympics triple jump bronze medallist – has assured that he would not interfere with Sreeshankar's training and that he need not change his training pattern.
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The first bunch of athletes left for Antalya this morning and the jumpers are likely to fly to Turkey soon. And Sreeshankar's international season-opener in this major Worlds-Asiad-Commonwealth Games year is likely to be in Greece's Kallithea Jumps meet in Athens on May 25 where Tokyo Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou is also expected.
Will Sreeshankar jump 8.40m this year?
“Much more for sure....just need some peace of mind,” said the youngster.
Sreeshankar is probably as talented as Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra. Interestingly, the World Athletics' scoring table considers the national records of two stars as equal offering the same number of points (1216) to Sreeshankar's 8.36m and Chopra's 88.07m.