Tough road to Tokyo but Sreeshankar remains upbeat

Sreeshankar hit a wonderful high in March when he broke his own national record with an 8.26m leap at the Federation Cup in Patiala and qualified for the Olympics.

Sreeshankar hit a wonderful high in March when he broke his own national record with an 8.26m leap at the Federation Cup in Patiala.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

With the list of countries suspending flights from Indian getting longer every day, long jumper M. Sreeshankar is aware that this July's Tokyo Olympics is going to be a tough one.

“We had planned for some international competitions during the last week of May and June but now I think the chances of going are low,” said the 22-year-old in a chat with Sportstar from his home in Palakkad.

Sreeshankar hit a wonderful high in March when he broke his own national record with an 8.26m leap at the Federation Cup in Patiala and qualified for the Olympics.

He is currently joint third in the world outdoor list but he realises that with every passing week, the odds stacked against him are getting bigger.

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“Competitions are going on in American, Caribbean and European countries, so they have a big advantage,” said the youngster.

Sreeshankar desperately needs quality competition to fine-tune his act for Tokyo, feels his dad S. Murali, a former international who is also his coach.

“We need to get some three to four competitions to get to form, if not outside at least in India,” he said.

“Not three, he needs some 10 meets to be in top form,” said Anju Bobby George, the country's only World championships medallist with her long jump bronze at the 2003 Paris Worlds.

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With the COVID situation in the country appearing to get under control a couple of months ago, Sreeshankar had planned to go abroad. “We were planning to go to France and applied for visas. We don't know what stage the process is in now. And since our teams could not go for the Relay Worlds, we know there will be a problem for the travel,” said Murali.

But the biggest worry is the 14-day quarantine.

“If countries insist on a 14-day quarantine, it will affect our health badly and training is very crucial now since we are close to the Olympics. If they remove the restrictions, I would definitely like to compete outside,” said Sreeshankar.

With the next few competitions, including the Grand Prix (June 15) and Inter-State Nationals (June 25-29) in Bengaluru looking doubtful, Sreeshankar has many reasons to worry.

But the star and coach are trying to staying positive.

“We have our training in Palakkad, some four hours every evening even during lockdown. And I feel we may go to the Olympics directly from here. That is how it looks like now,” said Murali.