Long jumper M. Sreeshankar appeared a bit lost after a poor opening round at the World Athletics indoor championships in Belgrade on Friday night. He was doing his second indoor meet, four years after doing his first in Teheran, and could not read the Stark Arena's very fast and bouncy track. He could not set a proper approach run and could manage just manage a 7.58m first round.
But a few suggestions from Adille Sumariwalla, the president of the Athletics Federation of India, helped the 22-year-old improve by a big margin in the next few rounds and finish seventh with an indoor national record of 7.92m.
“I had to sort of fully extend myself on the board in my first jump. Then Adille sir came to the coaches' stand and suggested corrections in my run-up, after that I could do the rest of my jumps in a bit of a flow,” Sreeshankar told The Hindu from Belgrade on Saturday.
“He helped me a lot. Had he not suggested the corrections, I don't think I would have got those jumps because the track was very fast and bouncy. I'm really thankful to Adille.”
Sreeshankar, the national record holder with 8.26m, had expected bigger jumps but the pressure was so much that more than half the field had first-round problems with eight of the 14 jumpers fouling their opening attempt. In fact, Cuba's Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Maykel Masso and Japan's 2019 Asian champion Yuki Hashioka fouled their first three jumps and failed to progress to the last eight. Greece's Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou took the gold with 8.55m.
Sreeshankar, who was in Belgrade without his dad and coach S. Murali, had other issues to worry about soon after landing there.
“We reached at 3 a.m. and got up at 6 a.m. for the accreditation procedures. It took a long time, the day before the event, from morning to evening we were wandering here and there...from hotel to the ground and it was very cold too,” said the youngster one of the two Indians to qualify for the Indoor Worlds (the other is Asian shot put record holder Tajinderpal Singh Toor).
“The cold was also an issue, my body did not open up properly. Still, it was a good learning experience to be able to jump with those big names.
“I'll only move upwards from here, I think I can do well this season.”