The World Athletics Championships begin in the USA on Friday but strangely, 20 of the 32 long jumpers who will be at Oregon could not even touch the 8m-mark in their last competition.
That includes outdoor world-leader Simon Ehammer, who could manage only 7.81m at the recent Swiss Championships, Sweden’s Diamond League champion Thobias Montler (7.98m) and Jamaica’s defending World champion Tajay Gayle (2022 best: 7.97m).
Are they all holding back to give their best at the Worlds?
“Not sure about that. But the top ones have done their best this year. (Olympic champion Miltiadis) Tentoglou had a very good indoor season, certainly he is the favourite. It will be great to jump with him,” said national record holder M. Sreeshankar in a chat with Sportstar from Chula Vista (USA), where he is fine-tuning for the Worlds.
With a personal best of 8.36m, Sreeshankar shares the second rung in this year’s world list with Tentoglou. He is a favourite to win a medal at the Worlds but is trying to stay calm.
“I am not thinking anything medal-wise or distance-wise. Not putting any expectations, just focusing on the rhythm and getting that feeling right. I feel really good after the sessions here and I am confident of putting up a great show. This time it will be good,” said the 23-year-old from Palakkad.
With Cuba’s Olympic silver medallist Juan Echevarria, who had the longest jump in Tokyo (8.50m, qualifying round), absent, will the medals battle be between Tentoglou, Montler and him?
“Everything depends on that particular day and the conditions. I guess 8.30m+ will bring a medal,” he said.
With the long jump final slated for July 16, a medal from Sreeshankar would make him the first Indian male to win a World Championships medal. Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, the favourite for the javelin throw gold, will have his final on July 23.
Despite the disappointment of last year’s Olympics, where he failed to enter the final, Sreeshankar feels that Tokyo offered valuable lessons.
“Tokyo and Belgrade (Indoor Worlds, seventh, 7.92m, March 2022) have helped me to get to know the field better. That will surely help. The Greece trip and the Kallithea meet with Montler (which Sreeshankar won) were really important.”
With the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) finally clearing Jeswin Aldrin, India will have three long jumpers at the Worlds for the first time, with Muhammed Anees also making the cut.
“Three long jumpers and three triple jumpers (Abdulla Aboobacker, Praveen Chitravel, Eldhose Paul)... it’s a kind of historic moment in Indian athletics. Happy to be a part of it,” said Sreeshankar, who is with his dad-cum-coach S. Murali in the USA.