What Google Won’t Tell You podcast: Murali Sreeshankar on long jump, basketball, speed cubing and sacrificing his beloved parotta

In episode 3 of the ‘What Google Won’t Tell You’ podcast, Sportstar caught up with long jumper Murali Sreeshankar on his career so far and its various ups and downs, his dreams for the 2024 Paris Olympics and more.

Published : Jul 24, 2023 10:06 IST - 119 MINS READ

In this episode of What Google Won’t Tell You, Jonathan Selvaraj and Ipsit Mohapatra speak to Asian Championships and Commonwealth Games silver medal-winning long jumper Murali Sreeshankar.

Listen to the full episode here:


Ipsit: We’re in the next cycle of Asian Games but something remarkable which has been in my mind since Jakarta is when you jumped and landed very close to your personal best that evening. You did a 7.95 but finished just outside the medal bracket. After your jump you looked at the pit and you kind of swore or something, as if taking an oath. You were talking to the pit, you were talking to yourself. There was so much fire. I don’t know who noticed what. But it’s stuck in my mind ever since. Do you remember that moment when you were talking to that pit?

ALSO READ:Happier with 8.09m in Paris than 8.41m in Bhubaneswar, says Sreeshankar

Sreeshankar: I do remember that moment. I was like 6th there in the Asian Games in 2018. I jumped 7.95. It was my last jump and it was pretty good but it was fouled by the slightest of margins. I looked into the camera and said ‘I will be back’. Back then I didn’t know that it would have such a big impact. My entire family was watching back at home and everyone, my friends and so many others were putting this sentence - ‘I wil be back’ as their status. .It was pretty odd.

The adrenaline rush was completely insane at that time. I was 18-19 year old. I didn’t know the seriousness of shouting something at the camera also. I was all pumped up, adrenaline pumped up but hopefully I will be able to redeem myself at this Asian Games because it’s been five years since that episode and I feel much better as an athlete, much more matured as an athlete. I’m sure I will be able to redeem myself for Jakarta in Hangzhou.

Ipsit: Thank you for answering that. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Our podcast is called What Google Won’t Tell You. Obviously I had to go to Google because not everything is in my head. In every Olympics since you were born, your best two jumps this year give you a medal. In each of the Olympics. You were born just before Sydney. In Sydney, you would have won a medal and gold in some of the others also. I can take you back to Bob Beamon’s jump. You are medaling in every single Olympics. This is not pressure. It is just about seeing patterns and seeing things and I wish you big jumps. I don’t know who turns up on that day. The event is so crazy – 67 people have jumped 8m this year and it’s amazing to see two Indians in one and two on that list. Jeswin (Aldrin) and you have been pushing each other like mad.

ALSO READ: Inter-state Championships: Sreeshankar gave dope sample voluntarily after jumping 8.41m, says father Murali

Tell me something about your event. Are you a consistent jumper or are you a jumper who will uncork a big one. I ask because you have been super consistent in your last few events. Because your last event you were super consistent.

Sreeshankar: I believe that if it is my day, my approach and my rhythm is right, I will be consistent on that particular day and whenever it is required, I will be able to put up a good jump. I know that now 8.30 plus is a medal in every championships. I will say that 8.35m plus is a medal in all major championships which includes the World Championships and the Olympics. But the thing is that’s the jump that it takes to win a medal at the Asian and Commonwealth Games also because of the high level of competition. This time in the Asian Championships everyone was taken by surprise that six to seven jumpers were jumping over 8m.

When I jumped 8.10 in the first round, I thought that will be good enough to seal a gold medal in the competition but there was the Chinese Taipei guy who jumped 8.10. There was a Chinese guy who jumped 8.08m. There was another guy who jumped 8.02m so I knew I had to level up.

But I was feeling really good that day. When I had my warm ups -- usually before the jumps, I used to take a warm up jump just to get the feeling of the jump before the competition -- It went really far so I told my dad – “This day is going to be ours. We are going to come up with a big jump today.” But when it came to the competition, I was not even close to the board. In the first jump, I did 8.10 but I was 30cm behind the board. Second jump was a foul so we were a little cautious with the jumps and I was not able to get the rhythm and the hot and humid conditions were also playing a significant role in our performances.

(File) M. Sreeshankar of Palakkad seen in action during his boys’ long jump meet record breaking erfort in the Olympian Suresh Babu fifth Kerala State Youth Athletics Championship held at Kochi on April 07, 2015.
(File) M. Sreeshankar of Palakkad seen in action during his boys’ long jump meet record breaking erfort in the Olympian Suresh Babu fifth Kerala State Youth Athletics Championship held at Kochi on April 07, 2015.

(File) M. Sreeshankar of Palakkad seen in action during his boys’ long jump meet record breaking erfort in the Olympian Suresh Babu fifth Kerala State Youth Athletics Championship held at Kochi on April 07, 2015.

So I cannot warm up too much or exert too much during the jumps. I have to conserve my energy for the span of two hours because there were 18 competitors so the competition was going to be very long and in those hot and humid conditions. The competition started at 4 o’clock so I had to strategise everything in the right possible way.

When the Chinese Taipei guy jumped 8.40, I was really surprised. I knew he would jump 8.20 or 8.25m. But 8.40 was really a big surprise for me. So I had to get my momentum right so we planned out again. The fifth jump was also good but again it was much behind the board. In the sixth jump, we kind of pushed back the approach a bit – it’s going to be do or die, all out. So I got the jump and as you said, in all the Olympics, 8.41 or 8.37 could win a medal but it’s very important that we manage that performance on that day. Because we don’t know who pops out or who comes into shape all of a sudden in that competition. Right now in the global stage, there is an open stage for a lot of people to win a medal. That Greek guy - Miltiádis Tentóglou - is really very consistent. He has been jumping 8.25 quite consistently. Apart from him, the chance to win a medal for all the other guys is very open. It all depends on that particular day. And I believe I have been able to do some good jumps consistently in the domestic circuit. It’s a challenge to prove myself at the international level. I’m yet to prove myself pretty consistently in the international field. But I believe that slowly I’m getting the right momentum in the international field because I did quite well in the conditions in Paris, in Greece and in the USA. Here also in Thailand, the jumps were consistent. I believe slowly and steadily I am getting there and next year hopefully, fingers crossed, everything will be going great.

Ipsit: You spoke about the Greek jumper – your good friend and the guy you are chasing – Tentoglou . Before I hand it to Jon, let me give you another takeaway. Tentoglou went into the last to last Olympics as a teenager and finished 24th in qualifying behind Ankit. Ankit was 24th. And in Tokyo you were 24th in qualifying. Sreeshankar, you are a guy who likes numbers. Do you see any trend in this? Tentoglou was 27th and you were even better placed at 24th.

ALSO READ: ‘It is high time we start aiming for an Olympic medal’ — Murali Sreeshankar

Sreeshankar: No, I don’t see that trend. Because Tentoglou is an unpredictable guy. His mind is super strong. I shouldn’t say this on the podcast but he is super strong right up here (points to head). 90 percent of his jump is coming from here only. When all the other jumpers falter in competition with respect to the weather conditions or the crowd or anything, this guy is strong right up here. You know that he will pull up a good jump out of nowhere when it is required.

He is a crazy guy. When Tentoglou jumped in the Olympics in 2016 he was also a world junior medallist back then. He was also quite young, jumping with the top class athletes. But the main thing is that from 2016, he has been getting that sort of exposure. He was jumping with Jeff Enders and Greg Rutherford - all the top jumpers, all the best teams in the world. He’s gotten used to that field. He got quite consistent in the Diamond League circuit back in 2018. That time, the men’s long jump was at its peak. 8.40 plus in all the Diamond Leagues, 8.40 plus in all the continental championships. Tentoglou was jumping 8.10-8.20 like that.

But now that he is a matured athlete. When he is coming into that sort of field of his own, he is just killing it. From 2021, he has been an unstoppable force. In the 2022 World Indoors, I was jumping with him. He jumped 8.55m, 8.52 jumps in this competition and with two jumps over 8.50 in the competition, he was just relaxing. No expression whatsoever. That guy is super crazy.

One thing I learned from Tentoglou is that he got used to the high-class, high-competition field. That is giving him that sort of mental confidence and boost, that he will be able to get that click and jump, that big jump when it is required. That’s why this year, I’ve focussed more and more on competing regularly in the Diamond League circuits and competitions abroad because that sort of feeling is very important.

When I discussed it with the other athletes, my friend Abdullah, Jyoti, they were all telling me this. Jyoti raced with Jasmine Camacho Quinn in Poland. Abdullah competed in the Diamond League. They were saying that experience, competing with those top guns, really helped them a lot in competitions like the Asian Championships. Abdullah had fouled the first attempt and then had a mediocre jump just so that he could reach the top 8 in the second attempt. He was 8th or 7th when round 2 was over. So it was very important for him to get the third jump correctly so that he could qualify for the top eight. But he could do that because he had that experience from the Diamond League, competing with Pichardo and everyone. So he managed a good jump in the third one and then the next one and he got a gold medal. That’s the kind of experience we get when we compete with all these top quality athletes. That’s the trend that I’ve seen in almost all the top quality athletes, whether it be Usain Bolt or Tentoglou or the Chinese jumper Wang.

When Wang won the World Championships with 8.36m, everyone was surprised that this guy jumped 8.36m. But no one realised the fact that he was the 2015 bronze medallist at the World Championships, and from 2015 to 2022, he has been in every World Championships final. He has been there in every Olympic Games final. And he has been among the best , missing a medal here and there but he used all his experience on his last jump at the World Championships and he won the gold medal. So that experience is making a big difference for us athletes.

Jonathan: Sree, this is slightly unrelated to long jumping. At least I think it is unrelated to long jumping, but I’ve never seen you wear specs before. Is it a new thing or...?

Sreeshankar: Sir, I’ve got vision issues. Cylindrical.

Jonathan: Can I ask you about it? Is it something you can talk about?

Sreeshankar: Nothing much about it. I’ve been reading books a lot. One day, I was reading a newspaper and I started to zoom my vision like this so I told my dad. I was feeling pain in my eyes when I was watching a screen for a long time or reading a newspaper for a long duration, I was straining my eyes. So I decided to go and check it. When I went to check it, the doctor said there is power, you need to wear these glasses. Actually, I don’t really like to wear these glasses because they look really weird on me.

Jonathan: Actually they look really cool on you so I was wondering whether it was fashion or you really need it.

Sreeshankar: No one wears specs for fashion! This thing is very irritating. But if I look at the screen for a long time, I might strain my eyes, so I am wearing it now. Rest of the time I am not wearing it at all.

Jonathan: So does it affect you when you are jumping because obviously you are looking for the board. Does it affect you in any way? Obviously there are many people across sports who have vision issues but does it affect you in any way?

(File) India’s Sreeshankar competes in the final of the men’s long jump athletics event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018.
(File) India’s Sreeshankar competes in the final of the men’s long jump athletics event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018.

(File) India’s Sreeshankar competes in the final of the men’s long jump athletics event during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 26, 2018.

Sreeshankar: No not really. Because the long jump board is 20 cm long so that big thing I can see pretty well

And when we hit the board, it isn’t as if we go there to watch and then hit the board. It is a calculative approach. We feel that we are going to hit the board and then we run through it. We don’t stand there and look at it. So in that particular way my vision isn’t tampering too much with my performance. But when I am reading or something, then that is the time I need to put on these glasses.

Jonathan: I’m guessing you are mostly reading digital stuff. You aren’t really reading print or paper

Sreeshankar: I do read print stuff. My sleep routine is very bad. So my friend suggested I read this - Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Jonathan: What have you figured out from that book?

Sreeshankar: The thing is that I have only reached the 43rd page right now. I haven’t figured out anything yet. But by the end of the book, I’m sure I will be able to realise that I have been doing a really big disaster all these years. Because my sleep pattern is very very bad. Yesterday I slept at 1 am. My dad doesn’t know that but I guess he will from this podcast. I’m openly saying I slept at 1am yesterday. But I make sure I wake up after eight hours or 8.5 hours because I woke up at 9.30am. I just finished my breakfast real quick, put on this t-shirt and jumped onto this podcast.

Jonathan: We should probably have set up the podcast a little earlier, then you would have slept earlier as well.

Sreeshankar: No! That’s why I said let’s do the podcast at 11am. Because I knew I’m going to wake up only at 9 am!

Jonathan: But Sree, when you are talking about the mechanics of long jumping and how you don’t look at the board, that’s one thing that has interested me. Because I believe you run up from 45-50m. If you are fouling the board, is it just easy to say why doesn’t he go from 46 m or 47m. Does that make a difference? Can you tell me a little bit of the mechanics of how you decide how long your run up should be? Why is it that distance?

ALSO READ: Paris 2024: Murali Sreeshankar qualifies for Olympics with silver at Asian Athletics Championship

Sreeshankar: Approach is a simple thing and at the same time it is very complicated. If we look at it from an easy aspect, the long jump approach is very easy and calculative. For all the athletes, it is different but for me it is a 19-step approach. I have a specific kind of stride pattern. With that stride pattern, if I run a 19-stride approach, then my approach comes to about 45-46m or probably 44.50 to 46m depending on the track. That’s why I have the 19-step approach. A lot of athletes use an initial skip, like they have a jog and then start from one particular spot and they take 18 or 16 steps. -- like how Tentoglou is doing or Jeswin is doing.

It all depends on the comfort of the athletes. But the main purpose of the long jump approach is to get the maximum speed in the last 10 metres. To get the maximum possible horizontal velocity and without losing much speed, converting it into the vertical velocity. That is the main thing with the approach.

I’ve tried different kinds of rhythms. I began the season with a skip. I’m doing an odd number of steps with the 19-step approach. I’ve tried the 20-step approach also – starting with the other leg, just to see if my speed is going right in the last 10 metres of the approach. Basically for all the athletes across the world, 45 to 46-47m is the standard distance for an approach. It depends on your comfort if you are taking a skip approach or you are going with a single step-- like what I am doing – I just stand there, take my 19 steps and jump. It basically depends on the comfort of the athlete. But the main thing is to have the maximum speed in the last 10m .

Ipsit: Jon,I want to come in here with a related question. You are talking about speed in the last 10m, Sreeshankar How fast are you?

Sreeshankar: In the last ten metres?

Ipsit: I’m sure you have done 100m.

Sreeshankar: I’ve done that in training but I’ve not done that competitively. But I am quite fast in the 100mI. I am sure I am having good speed.

I asked this question because I grew up in an era where Carl Lewis was t9, he dominant long jumper and when he was really good, he killed the competition. In his last gold medal win, he did it in his first jump because he knew he didn’t have it. He had a torrid qualifying in the USA and came to the Olympics and killed it in the first jump.

Sreeshankar: 8.70 first jump! 

Ipsit: He was crazy. But his flat speed was very nice. Those are rarities these days.People don’t double up. In fact, it has happened the other way with Lamont Marcell Jacobs. He was a long jumper who won the 100m gold.

Sreeshankar: And he switched to the 100m.

Ipsit: Because you spoke about speed, that’s why I asked this – your mechanics of sprinting.

Carl Lewis of the United States prepares for his heat in the Men's 100 metres at the XXIV Summer Olympic Games on 23rd September 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.(Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)
Carl Lewis of the United States prepares for his heat in the Men's 100 metres at the XXIV Summer Olympic Games on 23rd September 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.(Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images) | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Carl Lewis of the United States prepares for his heat in the Men's 100 metres at the XXIV Summer Olympic Games on 23rd September 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.(Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images) | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Sreeshankar: Carl Lewis was a once-in-a-generation athlete, once-in-two centuries maybe. Because doing the 100m, 200m and then killing it in the long jump is incredible. And he also had. 9.7 speed and he also took off without losing any speed. So maximum translation of horizontal velocity into vertical velocity. It’s a treat to watch, poetry in motion. It’s like a moving work of art. I cannot find words to describe how Carl Lewis jumps.

When we first got a computer at home, the first thing my father got was a CD which had a documentary of Carl Lewis. His running mechanics, how he jumps, how he trains and stuff like that. It was a one-hour-long documentary. That was the first thing I watched on our computer when we got it home. Carl Lewis is an incredible jumper. And also Marcel Jacobs, technique wise – he is a form sprinter. His technique is absolutely incredible. And all the speed comes because of the proper running mechanics he has. He did long jump but he had knee issues and shifted to the 100m and won gold in Tokyo. But he is also an incredible sprinter.

Ipsit: He still identifies himself as a long jumper.

Sreeshankar: Yeah, his instagram ID is crazy long jumper.

Ipsit: He still has never given up on that love. But talking about mechanics, you are also a remarkably built athlete. I’ve seen you go from wiry and strong to right now - your lower body, you are packing muscle. Your lower body is strong right now. I can see that. But you have somehow maintained the balance. You have kept your top shape really in control but you have really blazed away with that. Is it a conscious decision to generate power, get speedier, get faster with your take off and all that? Has it happened quickly? It has taken some for you to build this I think.

Sreeshankar: Actually my dad has planned all my weight training schedules in such a way that it is optimal for the long jump. Actually I am not bulking much into my upper body because that might restrict my movement in the arm swings and everything.

We focus more on power and power-based movements, rather than just building strength. For strength, we build the hypertrophy of the muscles. We do heavier reps like 80 percent (of 1 rep max) for five or six repetitions. But this time we are focusing more on power-based training like we are moving light weight quite fast. Earlier I used to squat around 300 kg heavy quarter squat but now I am focussing more on a 200kg half squat, with good propulsion and good speed so that the power output is quite good. That’s what we are focusing upon right now. All the power based movements. Also, I think I’ve told this in an interview before, I’d spoken to Dr. Klaus. Because I am always curious to learn about all these factors because I can always relate these to my physics which I learned in school and college also. So I asked Dr. Klaus – coach what is more important – strength or power?

So, coach was like – obviously power, because strength is just a small aspect to measure the quantity of power. And everything for a long jumper or a javelin thrower, what’s more important is power. For Neeraj bhaiyya for instance, it all depends on how fast he is able to put out the throw. The speed of his arm is very important for his throw, and he is also very strong. Power is how fast you can exert the force, how fast you can translate that force with respect to speed. So for a long jumper also, power you can generate at take off is very important. If I’m able to use 100 Newton force in a very small factor of time that results in a very high power output and it obviously results in a big jump. So we have been focusing a lot on power-based training and that is also helping to stay injury-free and more fresh in other training also because I am not lifting too much or too heavy and spoiling my technique or injuring my body. That’s the thing. It’s like my father has prepared the training program and weightlifting program so that everything is pretty much locked in.

Ipsit: Jon, Sree has brought in his father

PALAKKAD, KERALA, 19/12/18: India’s national long jump record holder M. Sreeshankar‘s with his parents S. Murali and K. Bijimol.
PALAKKAD, KERALA, 19/12/18: India’s national long jump record holder M. Sreeshankar‘s with his parents S. Murali and K. Bijimol.

PALAKKAD, KERALA, 19/12/18: India’s national long jump record holder M. Sreeshankar‘s with his parents S. Murali and K. Bijimol.

Jonathan: Sree obviously you have been training with your dad from your childhood. He’s been an athlete himself. What sort of a dad was he in training? Was he one of the ‘hanikarak bapus’ that you have seen in Dangal? What kind of a dad was he?

Sreeshankar: When we are on the track, he is very very strict. He is a disciplinarian. He wants discipline in the track. Even if my friends or family come to watch me training and they start talking, he never likes that. He is focussed on training and if some random small kids run to the track, and if they start running or playing and if my dad puts some cones for my marks and if they run and go and pick those cones, that’s it. He shouts at that kid as if he was a grown up. I’ll tell him to be calm, come on! He’s just a small kid. He’s like, ‘I’ve measured all the distances correctly and placed the cone. Why does he want to take that cone? Why are his parents so irresponsible?’

When it is in training, he is so focussed, so committed and so strict about that. His theory is that if we lose focus in training, and if we take maza during training, there are chances of picking up injuries. So in training, during those three hours or four hours, that’s the time I need to have my full focus and concentration in it. Of course, there are sessions when I can relax and chill out but most of the sessions are technical sessions or speed sessions and he never entertains any sort of entertainment or any sort of distractions. He has that kind of focus and I’ve been used to that sort of schedule and routine for a very long period of time. So I’m also used to that sort of disciplinarian attitude when it comes to important sessions.

Earlier when I was a kid, when I was in school in the 8th standard or 9th standard, he would tell me I needed to sleep before going for the training session. Probably one or two hours because for him sleep is very important and that’s what I am really lacking upon. But I must make sure I sleep for one hour or one and a half hours before every training session so that I get ready for the evening session. He used to say I have to sleep before the jump session. I have to sleep correctly before a weight training session. I have to sleep correctly before a sprint session. So I have been trained that way for a very long period of time, from my childhood days. So I’m quite used to it. So now my dad doesn’t have to say you have to sleep before your technique session. Now it’s by default. After lunch, I make sure I get a proper power nap of one to one and a half hours so that I am ready for the next session.

That thing is quite in my routine now. He doesn’t have to say anything like get ready for the evening, or get good sleep or eat at this time because I am programmed that way from a very young age, so now everything is kind of a default

Ipsit: Sree,you must have seen your dad’s tracks and shoes, spikes and all that. Did you play anything else as a kid?

Sreeshankar: I played basketball but not at a competitive level because my dad doesn’t allow me to play in tournaments due to the risk of injury. He only allows me to play when he’s around. He’s a good basketball player because when he was a kid, initially when he went to sports school. He trained to be a basketball player and was coached by the national level coach that time in Kerala so his fundamentals of basketball were really good for him. His shooting mechanics are also very good, but unfortunately he didn’t teach me any of that because he is very strict about me not going to the court which we have here is not that good and there are chances of injury and he cannot entertain any sort of injury when my sports career is at such a level. So he always advised me not to go to the court. I would say, ‘let’s go and hang around the basketball court, just to have some food.’ He would then agree and come with me. My dad also always makes sure that I’m not running. I’m not going near the fences. I’m not going into the grass. So everything is being taken care of, sir. 

Jonathan: World’s worst one-on-one basketball match.

Sreeshankar: One-on-one, I think, at the age of 56, he’ll still cook me up, sir. He will still cook me. I’m telling you honestly. He’s such a solid player because his fundamentals are so good. I’m far more athletic than him. I can sprint, run and shoot, dunk and get the point, but he has those fundamentals, right? So he just has to get that fade away and then shoot. He just scores points. 

Jonathan: Can you dunk though? 

Sreeshankar: Yeah, I do. I’m a long jumper, so (naturally). 

Ipsit: What a question he’ll take off from the three-point arc. 

Sreeshankar: No, no, not that far sir. Not as far as these basketball players. Those guys have insane qualities. I don’t have that kind of quality because I don’t have ball control and my fundamentals of basketball are not not that good. I just watch the NBA. I just learn on my own and then my shoots are good. So I think I’ll be a good shooting guard or point guard. 

Jonathan: Ohh, nice. 


Jonathan: I just wanted to go back a little bit. You had said, of course, that you know the first CD that you watched was Carl Lewis. You’ve been to the US. You’ve trained there. Did you ever get a chance to meet him? When you were training in Texas, or at the World Championships or anywhere? 

Sreeshankar: I’ve met him at the World Championships in Doha and also at the Tokyo Olympics, I’ve met him, but I didn’t quite get a chance to talk to him because he was busy with his athletes and I think he’s working in the University of Houston as a coach for sprints and jumps. But I never got a chance to meet him and talk to him but my dad obviously has met him. He has got a picture also, but dad also has not talked to him in much detail about training or anything. 

Jonathan: Fair enough. 

Sreeshankar: But this time around, Dad got a chance to talk to Willie Banks. He was there for the Asian championships, the triple jumper from the USA and a former world record holder. Dad had a quite good time talking to him, so he video called me and said, do you know who this is? I was really taken by surprise. Like what? “What is Willie Banks doing here?” I was really surprised to see him. He wished me luck before the competition and said, “Well, we are all watching you, good luck for the world championship.” “Thank you, Sir. That means a lot.”

Jonathan: Sree, going back to your childhood. Obviously you were someone who was good in studies and sports as well. Was it ever difficult for you to pick which to prioritize? How did you choose which one you want to focus on? Was that ever difficult for you at the start? 

Sreeshankar: For me, sport was always a passion.. I was really passionate about sport, but I always preferred to give equal importance to my academics also, because that is also a very important part for a student to grow up, and that’s a schedule which they have in the NCAA also because academics and sports has to be well balanced and when it came to a time where I started excelling more on athletics and I my father and mother generally felt that I’ve got a chance to be among the world’s best, then I started focusing more towards my athletics career, but not at the cost of my studies. I made sure that I completed my graduation and I was doing my post graduation until I got the job. But sport was always a passion for me and my parents always wanted me to excel in academics as well. I’m an engineering dropout. After I dropped out of engineering, I did my bachelors in mathematics and got good marks. I then moved on to post graduation and took up MSc. Statistics. By the time, after the Commonwealth Games, I got recruited by the Reserve Bank of India and now I’m working for them. Of course I do have plans to complete my post graduation but post the 2024 Olympics. 

Jonathan: Correct, correct. Is there something about long jump that attracted you to it? You’re obviously an analytically minded person. Was there something about long jump particularly that attracted you because it has a lot of these qualities? 

Sreeshankar: Not really, sir. Long jump was one event which was quite in me because I had good jumping qualities when I was a kid also. So when I used to go to a stadium with my dad, there used to be some hurdles. So my dad used to put them at big heights and asked me to jump over it and I could jump over it very easily and without any fear or anything. Because jumping quality was there, we always made sure that my training goes in the right direction and that I am not injured. I I haven’t tried triple jump yet and I don’t want to try triple jump at all because long jump is quite a simple event for me and I just stuck to it. From a very young age, I’ve only been doing long jump. Sprints and other things come in during the training and.mostly long jump in the competition. So that’s one thing. It was already in me, kind of genetically because my dad was a very explosive jumper when I used to hear from his friends and his coaches from back in those days. He had that good quality. So I think that the genetic factor also helped me a lot. 

Jonathan: Did you ever talk to your dad about his jumping. What is a normal dinner conversation at your home? What would dinner table conversations go like, maybe? What would you guys talk about? Because your entire family is into sports? . 

Sreeshankar: No, mostly it will be sport, sport-related or only sport related or my career related like where is the next competition. So my dad used to see, like, is Tentoglou jumping today? So he’d go online and check out how much he jumped. All the discussions will be related to sport and what our competitors are doing, what we have to do. The most recent conversation during my dinner was that last round jump, sir. So dad was like that was 8.50 plus. They were wrong. So I told him that it wasn’t. It could have been close to 8.50 because this parallax thing was an issue. So we were discussing the angle of the jump. My mom was also asking why I settle for silver every time by such small margins. And then I’d tell her, Mom, it’s fate, we can’t do anything. So almost all the dinner conversations are all about sport only, like what other athletes are doing, how can we improve when we travel, like how can we reduce the travel fatigue, etc during competitions and different kinds of approaches. Since Mom also did sports, she can also easily relate to these conversations between dad and I. Maybe not the technical aspects, but regarding recovery, food, nutrition and everything. Dad’s always sceptical about my technique and my approach. So when I am eating, he’ll start, “It’s like the last 10 metres..” And then I’d have to stop him and ask him to let me eat my food. He’ll slam the table mimicking my technique, like you have to take off like this, this is it; and I’d say: Stop it. Let’s have food and discuss it later. 

Jonathan: Was it like that even when you were a kid or was it different then? 

Sreeshankar: Almost the same thing. Almost the same. Because we never talk about movies. We never talk about any reality shows or a singer coming and performing, never. It’s only sport, either athletics or basketball. Nothing apart from that. 

Jonathan: When you’re running, when you’re doing your run up, is there any moment where you realise, “Hey, this is not happening. I’m going to foul this one,” because the chance of fouling a long jump is fairly high. it will be at least 20-30% of most jumps tend to be fouls. What’s the moment when you realise this is not going well or what is the moment where you think this is probably going to go well because you’re not looking at the plate/wooden plank. 

Sreeshankar: Actually, we get a feeling after the check marks. Before the last five or six steps, we keep a check mark in our approach. So when we can feel that we are either over striding or getting too far from it. So that’s the time when we get the feeling that if you’re over striding, if your foot is getting in front of the check mark, I have to shuffle my step, or shorten my steps so that I’ll be able to hit the take off mark properly. I lose my speed and take off. When it comes behind, I know that I have to over stride a bit to get my foot in the take off. For all my good jumps, I felt that I just ran through the board. hit the check mark correctly and I just ran through the board. So that’s very important,sir. 

Jonathan: When you say check Mark, what exactly are you talking about? 

Sreeshankar: We get two check marks for the World Championships and Olympics. One marker, we keep at the initial phase of the approach, like at the starting of the approach and one we keep it at the check mark so that our foot hits that check mark and we go right into the board. I usually keep my mark at around 12 metres and 70 centimetres, so that my right foot hits that 12 metres and 70 centimetres so that my take off happens correctly. All athletes get these check marks. It’s a small kind of rectangle-shaped thing. Sometimes it will be circular, like a small cone or something. Anything can work as a check mark. 

Jonathan: Is it the same for everyone? 

Yeah, it’s the same for everyone. So everyone uses that check mark. The utility of these check marks is basically for the coaches, when they see from the front angle, from that angle, they know the athlete has hit the check mark and hit the board correctly. Similarly, they will know if the athlete has exceeded the check mark, so the coaches will know the athlete is going to fail. So they asked the athlete to push their own way a bit back. So these are the technicalities of the long jump. Long jump is the only event which is more technical and requires assistance from the coach every time we go. Unlike sprints or middle distance events, long jump is more technical and we need the assistance from a person outside to get everything done, and if you have your coaches with you, very well. It’s a big advantage. 

Ipsit: Sreeshankar, Jon, questions are lining up from people who have been waiting for ask. So we should not be hogging this. Lavanya? 

Lavanya: We’ve got a question from Santa on chat where he says, “Sreeshankar talks about his mother complaining about him losing out on gold by a small margin. Long Jump is an event where you can lose out by a matter of a few decimals, so when you miss out on a cutoff that you’re targeting by a very tiny margin, does it bog you down, or does it kind of charge you up thinking I could get that close? I can maybe do better from here. 

Sreeshankar: It was not actually a complaint, ma’am. Last time at the Commonwealth Games, I missed out on gold with a small, not even a margin. The measurement of the jump was taken from the mark of my shirt. So it was very unfortunate. So mom was like, humare saath hi kyun hota hai aisa, in Hindi. I keep telling her, don’t worry. Big picture is the 2024 Paris Olympics. We’ll figure out everything. 

Lavanya: I’m interested in what she said in Malayalam. What did she say?

Ipsit: Of course she did not say that in Hindi please. 

Sreeshankar: Yeah, of course. Yeah, she said, “ Namakku mathram endha eppozhum ingana sambavikunnadhu?” (Laughs)

Ipsit: Lavanya is from Kerala, so she can understand. 

Lavanya: Yeah, it’s very bad Malayalam. But yes, I wanted to ask you a little bit about that. When we talk to athletes all across the spectrum, we see a lot of you guys training together or maybe in the same camp or under the same private sponsors sometimes. So we hear a lot about how playlists get exchanged, movie recommendations get exchanged or certain phrases also get exchanged. There’s a lot about how Haryanvi and the Punjabi has sort of seeped into everybody else’s vocabulary. What about Malayalam? Have you passed on anything to other people? 

Sreeshankar: Usually, ma’am, the quality of all the Malayalis is that we adjust to the set of people we’re around. So if we go to North India, we speak Hindi. If we go to Tamil Nadu, we speak Tamil. We might not know Telugu or Kannada, but when I speak to Praveen (Chithravel), Jeswin, I speak in Tamil. When I speak to Neeraj Bhaiya, I speak in Hindi. That’s one quality with all the Malayalis like we get adjusted to those around us quite well. Jon anna also asked me yesterday how I speak such good Hindi. Hindi was my second language back in school, so I’m quite good in Hindi also, but that’s the one quality which I found with all malayalis, not just with me. Even Eldose (Paul), Abdullah (Aboobacker) or anyone from Kerala goes with any Tamil Nadu athlete, they speak in Tamil. Also, I’ve never seen a Tamil guy speaking to us in Malayalam, ever. I’ve never seen a person from North India speaking to us in malayalam. So that’s one quality with all the malayalis and also we share a very good bond, like no matter who the athletes are. When we go for the competition, we have a very good bond between ourselves. We share Instagram reels and we stay connected almost all the time and we congratulate each other after every competition, so it’s a very good aura, very, very good, kind atmosphere, especially among us jumpers, because we are the ones who are pushing each other to new heights, new distances.So it’s a very good thing for us. 

I have to say one thing. TJ (Tejaswin Shankar) speaks to me in Malayalam sometimes or Tamil. He knows Tamil, so I sometimes speak to him in Tamil. So it’s a very good atmosphere and during that time, we never talk about sports or anything like that. We don’t have to talk about sports. We just talk about how other athletes are doing, how we can beat them, how we can win World championship medals? How can we grab good professional contracts, how the contract system works. We share our knowledge in different kinds of aspects. And it’s very good to be amongst our team.

Lavanya: So who’s your 3:00 AM friend? If you have to call somebody and say,  you know I’m not able to sleep, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make this jump, so I want to correct this about my technique. Would you call up and vent? 

Sreeshankar: 3:00 AM, I think no one, no one. Because everyone is sleeping. When it comes to sleep, I am` the most undisciplined person. I was sharing my room with Abdullah during the Asian Championship. By 10:30pm, lights were off and he was under his blankets. By 10:30pm, he says, ‘I have to sleep. I have to sleep.’ So I also started sleeping earlier than usual, like probably around 11:00 o’clock or 11.30 pm mostly. But if I have to call someone at 3:00 AM, I would never get anyone in the Indian athletics circuit, that’s for sure, because everyone apart from me is very disciplined when it comes to their sleep, because I think most of them are used to training in the early mornings at 7am or 8am. I’m a person who always trains in the evening or probably late evening. 

So yesterday my training was from 6-9:30pm. 9.30pm is the time when most people go to sleep. I just finished my training and came back. So it’s more because of the kind of training routine I have and also when dad used to complain to me about my sleep routine saying, “Why do you sleep at 1 and 2 am?”  I would just say it’s all because of academic pressure, which is also valid because when I was in school, I had my training and then I had to finish my day-to-day activities. I had to make sure that I had no backlog, so I used to sleep by around 1:00 o’clock or 2:00 o’clock to finish up my work and get ready for the next day’s exams and revision tests and everything in school. For that full one year, I had to stay up until like 1-2am and then wake up by 7am. I was quite sleep deprived during my last year in school, and even when I joined engineering, a similar routine was in place. I was up till 2am to finish all my work. I dropped out of engineering and took up a Bachelors degree in mathematics, the schedule eased a bit but sometimes when it was required, I had to stay up late at night to submit all my assignments and projects and gear up for exams. So because of my academic schedule, my circadian rhythm had shifted quite a bit towards the end. I am trying to get back to my normal routine. One thing I always do is to sleep by around 12am. My sleep schedule is very bad. I always try to make sure that I go to sleep at least 12am and over the next year, I am going to try and pull that ahead to 10.30 or 11. 

Lavanya: We have a couple of questions that are a little similar. So, I’ll ask them to you one by one. Nihit is asking - please share something about all that happened in the lead up to Tokyo - with that selection trial, being under so much pressure and the aftermath of the Olympics. What were your takeaways from that entire phase?

Sreeshankar: That phase has helped me to become a more matured athlete. I always believe that tough times make tough people and that time was very tough for me. When I was looking back at the date, tomorrow is 21st July, that’s like 2 years before I had my confirmatory trials for the Olympic Games back in Bangalore and I had to jump in rain also. So, post two years, I feel that now I’m in a very good shape for the Olympic Games, heading into the Olympic Games even though it is happening next year. But that was the time when even my dad had to face a lot of criticism, my mom had to face a lot of criticism. My mom really had a very tough time back home with all the media and all the people criticising my dad, telling my mom that I have to go on to some other coach. Things are not working for me. So, that was a very tough phase for me and I had to get things tightened up to redeem myself. The 2022 season was quite good and this season is also progressing quite well. That tough phase has helped me become more mentally mature, face challenges in a more matured way and take things more easily, not everything to heart. Those experiences have helped me a lot in making my mindset really strong and also helped me in decision making processes during the competitions because I’ve faced tough situations. So, when I’m in a tough situation, I just remember that this is nothing compared to that. So, that sort of helps me out in every situation. Like whenever in a competition, like when that guy jumped 8.40m, I never felt intimidated or anything or never felt any kind of pressure because in a different perspective, that thing was also a big pressure for me but I’ve thrived in those pressure situations. So, it has helped me think more and more like a matured athlete and that’s quite helping me a lot. But I’m really happy with the way we have come after that difficult phase of my career.

Ipsit: Among eight billion people, 67 people jump 8m.

Sreeshankar: I’ve also read that kind of statement for other athletes on social media platforms and Twitter also like they just go there, compete and come back. Winning a medal in World Championships and Olympics is not everyone’s piece of cake and athletics, unlike every sport, is the toughest sport in the world. It’s not a sport which is played by eight countries or 10 countries or 13 countries or a particular geographical region or it’s not an indigenous sport. It’s a global phenomenon. Imagine an Indian winning a gold medal in the 100 metres. So, if you compare the magnitude of what Neeraj Bhaiya has achieved in the Olympic Games, it’s equivalent to India winning two consecutive FIFA World Cups. We could feel the aura of that.

Ipsit: Make it more. Make it more.

Sreeshankar: So, it’s very difficult for us to just go, debut in the World Championships and win a medal and come back. It’s not quite possible. It requires more and more experience and we have to get used to the high quality field. We have to compete with all those guys because last time when I competed at the World Championship Final, I was the only athlete who hadn’t competed in any Diamond League and all the other athletes who jumped in the World Championship finals were quite similar to each other. And I was the only newbie out there. So that’s why I wanted to get my rankings up last year so that I’ll get entries for the diamond leagues and many other competitions this year. So that’s the key thing. We have to get more and more experience in the global circuit, more and more experience in the international circuit, so that we’ll be able to be competitive among them.

Jonathan: I was just going to say that the difference is of course that at one point of time, just an Indian getting to 8m. You would count -” Okay, this is the sixth person or the 4th Indian to get over 8m. This is the fifth person to get over 8m.” Then, this year you’re jumping five 8m in one competition. Jeswin is jumping 8m. People are jumping 8m in state championships and tournaments. Lokesh.... the one guy who’s doing it in the US. Has that mentality changed as in you were telling me as well that you jumped 8.29m in Texas and your dad’s like, “Okay, next jump.” Has it disappeared? That entire thing was such a big deal. Now, we’re doing 8m. Even when I was starting my journalism, it was almost unheard of for Indians to get 8m. It was like a very rare thing and now it’s just happening all the time.

Sreeshankar: The standards of Indian jumps have gone really up. That’s what I believe for both long jump and triple jump. Earlier, when I jumped 7.99m in the 2018 Federation Cup, that was a big deal. Okay, I was pretty young. I was 18-year-old at that time.


“And oh, close to 8m”

That was a big deal but when I spoke to one of the coaches back in SAI, Bangalore. He was like, “My athlete jumped 8.01m in the first round” and no one was even clapping there because they’ve been quite used to seeing 8.20s and 8.30s more and more often. So now, there are very good jumpers coming up. They are jumping 8m plus in the state` championship and Lokesh has been doing really well in the US circuit and in the NCAA circuit. Myself and Jeswin have been jumping. And probably, I think this year, we have like five or six jumpers over 8m and I always believe that that’s a very healthy sign for Indian jumps altogether because Anju Ma’am once said that Indians really do have the potential to excel very high in technical events. So, I think jumping quality is one thing which most of the Indian athletes have. Considering the performance of jumps which has come this year, I think Indian athletes will be able to perform quite good in jumps I believe. More and more eight metre plus jumps from athletes have removed that mental block that 8 metres is a barrier. Now 8.30 or 8.40 can be the new barrier and hopefully, with the coming years 8.50 could be the new barrier for all of us to break. And I’m sure that we’ll be able to break that and more and more athletes will come into that 8 metres one because I think in Asia, apart from China, no other countries have produced a lot of eight metre plus, like five 8 metre plus jumpers. China does have some very good strong performances - more athletes in eight metre plus categories but I think this performance in long jump this year in India is very incredible. In state championships also, athletes jumping 8 metre plus is simply incredible.

Lavanya: Right. Sree, there is a question from Rebecca where she says losing in such small margins can feel quite disheartening. What is your method to recover from a loss and to get back on track? What’s your mantra?

Sreeshankar: What actually has gone has gone. We can’t do anything about it. So, the only thing which is in our control is to get better for the next competition. I always believe that whatever has gone and lost, it is just past. I just have to work on different kinds of aspects to make sure that I get that precious distance in the next couple of competitions . Dad always says that the past is the past. Leave the past. We just focus on the next. Even after Lausanne also, initially I was feeling very sad after the competition when I met Dad in the warmup track. He said that the past is past, get ready for the next Asian Championship two weeks ahead. We are going to kill it. So, that’s the thing. There is scope for improvement in all the competition, no matter the position which I secure. But I always feel that one big jump is always ahead of me in any competition and I’m pretty confident that that would click but to be very honest, losing by very small margin, losing the gold medal with the same jump on countback in the Commonwealth Games was far more saddening than this one because Commonwealth Games was one thing which I was very sure of winning the gold medal and I was very off during that finals. I was searching for my rhythm and I was not getting it. Only after the 4th and 5th jump, I started getting a good rhythm on the approach and it was a similar distance and he won by the second-best jump. Also, when we filed an appeal to the TIC, we found that the jump was measured from the mark of my T-shirt rather than the marker of my body. Those little things are very unfortunate but because it is what it is, we can’t do anything about it. So, it’s always important to leave the past and focus on the next competition. Next competition for me is the world championships. I know it will be very tough for me out there. Now, the three best jumps in the world are done by Asian athletes. So, of course, Asian games will also be as good as the World Championships, so these are two big competitions ahead of me this year.

Lavanya: Perfect. Is this also how you look at that 2018 phase when you had appendicitis and it really bogged you down physically? Do you ever look back at that and just realise how far you’ve come?

Sreeshankar: Obviously, because I always take that experience with me everywhere I go. I, kind of, always take it in my wallet and go everywhere because whenever I have a mishap or like a phase where my performance is not going that incredible, my dad always reminds me that we have come back from that 2018 incident. So, this is basically nothing for us. That gives me confidence because that was a very difficult phase for me because I lost a considerable amount of my body weight, my muscle strength went down completely. I was not able to run like 50 metres and major competitions for me that year were, I think, World Junior Championships and also Asian Games and it was within a span of three or four months. I was not able to exert anything during the training even after one or two months of the surgery. I had to take things very steadily and even during training also, I had complications after the surgery. It was a very tough phase but I’m really happy with the way that my father and my doctors and everyone helped me overcome that phase and got me back into good shape. So, that’s one experience which I always carry in my heart everywhere I go, because that was a really tough phase for my family also. Coming from that and doing, I think I did 8.20m in the open national meet that year and I believe that was a very good comeback for me after the surgery I had. I was really happy with the way I progressed. I was really happy with the way I trained all those times and for that time, I give credit to my dad only because the way he formulated the training program so that my loading phase is gradual because my doctors had suggested me not to put too much stress during the training because I just finished the surgery and there were complications because the appendix had ruptured inside. So, there were chances of organ poisoning and things like that. I’m not sure of the technical terms related to it but I had to be on antibiotics for a very long period of time so that my body detoxifies itself. So, that was a very tough phase for me and I think I overcame that quite well.

Lavanya: Right. Vijay Lokapally Sir asks, “Please tell us what kind of preparation goes into your training the day before the event. How much do you try to study your opponents? Or is it just about looking to analyse your own form?

Sreeshankar: We don’t really look into the start list or how the other athletes have performed. We always try to make sure that our things are pretty much proper and the preparation on the day before the competition is really very important for me because a lot of planning goes into it. I have a team meeting with my dad. He plans out in the morning, usually I have qualifications, so I have to wake up at 7:00 o’clock in the morning, get ready, 7:45 at the track. Do the warmups, come back, have breakfast and sleep for some time. Don’t drink coffee that day and then lunch - carbs and proteins - and again, take some nap. Take some rest. Go for a walk. Come back, sleep early. I Woke up early the next morning, because this time at Inter-State, I had to wake up at 4:00 o’clock in the morning because my qualifying round was at 7:30. So, a lot of planning goes into that. We do, kind of, reverse planning – 7.30 is the competition. So we have to be at the ground by 5.30-6. We have to leave the hotel at 5:00 o’clock. Then we have to get up at 4. Have breakfast at 4:30. Have a little snack in between. So, a lot of planning goes into it with respect to the amount of time I have to sleep, with respect to the amount of time I have to do the brisk walking movements, mobility. At what time I have to do mobility. Lot of planning usually takes place the day before the competition. That is one advantage I feel I have with my dad around me. He plans out everything, I give my inputs, we kind of mix everything and make sure that we have the proper plan in place.

Jonathan: Why no coffee, Sree?

Sree - Because if I have coffee the day before the competition, then because of the caffeine, I won’t be able to sleep in the afternoon. I have to sleep around one hour in the afternoon, like early afternoon, I’ll say like from 12:00 to 1:00 or probably 11 to 12 but if I have coffee in the morning, then probably I won’t be able to sleep until 4:00 o’clock or 5:00 o’clock in the evening. And if I sleep at four o’clock or 5:00 o’clock in the evening, then I won’t be able to sleep by around 10:00 o’clock or 11:00 o’clock because that caffeine thing will stay in my system and I’ll again sleep at my usual time which is 1:00 o’clock. So, he always says no coffee the day before the competition so that I get good sleep. It has to all be planned out quite well.

Jonathan: First of all, it’s very tragic that a Malayali cannot drink coffee.

Sreeshankar: But I have it the next day. Before going for the competition, I have a cup of coffee and go.

Jonathan: Is it black coffee? What kind of coffee is it?

Sreeshankar: Black coffee.

Jonathan: Is it for performance or because you like the taste of black coffee in which case you’re crazy.

Sreeshankar: No, I have coffee to add a bit of caffeine into my body because caffeine helps to stay awake during the competition. Also, I tend to avoid dairy products just before the competition. Like if I have to jump at 8:00 o’clock, I prefer not to have any dairy products before my competitions just to make sure that my stomach is ready to go? Not being too hard on my stomach.

Jonathan: Since we’re talking about coffee, we can talk about solid foods also. Before the Olympics, you had said that you had gone off eating parotta, calling parotta an emotion. Something similar this time? 

Sreeshankar: After the Tokyo Olympics, obviously, my performance wasn’t that good. So I told Dad that let’s extend this parotta thing to 2024. No parotta till 2024 Olympics, sir. 

Jonathan: You are still on track with that? You haven’t cheated?

Sreeshankar: Yes sir. Four years and no parotta sir. 

Lavanya: The pain is evident.

Sreeshankar: Ma’am, you’re from Kerala. You must know what it is like. I am just waiting for 2024 to be over. When my mom comes from the office, she used to buy parottas from hotels for my day and my sister. But for me, she will get rotis. While I eat that with chicken, they will be having it with parottas.

Lavanya: That is worse no? When everyone else is having it and you don’t

Sreeshankar: So my sister will grab a piece of parotta and she will point it to my face and then she will eat it.

Lavanya: Speaking of your sister, Sreeparvathy, what is your equation with your sister? Especially when you train, because she is an athlete herself. How does that balance out in your house?

Sreeshankar: She was doing the triple jump. But after 12th, she decided to focus on academics. She is very insightful about athletics and she follows all the competitions like the Diamond League and Continental Tour events. She has all the statistics about how all the athletes perform. Sometimes I ask her about my approach and take-off. If my performance is up or down in some competitions, I used to take her insights too, because she has been seeing me for a very long time. Whenever I sit in front of the computer to watch training or competition videos, she used to sit with me and watch. Just like how athletics is my kind of entertainment, it is quite similar for her. All of us are on the same track when it comes to sports. We watch events and competitions together and she tracks other athletes. I also get inputs from her, like your runup wasn’t good or you need to stay taller in your approach or your takeoff rhythm wasn’t good. So she also gives insightful things about my sport.

So she is doing her MBBS. So when I have some niggles I will message her what exactly it is and she gives her input on it.

Lavanya: Staying with your family. Santa has a question. Sree bhai, when we spoke last time, you were complaining about how your father wouldn’t allow you to even listen to music sometimes during competitions. But now we see you with fancy headphones during competitions. Has he come around?

Sreeshankar: The day before the competitions, when I used to warm up I used to wear that because he already told me what to do. But during training, when I am wearing the headset he really gets pissed off. Because that will be the time he will give his inputs and technical corrections.

No,before the competition, when I used to warm up, I used to wear that because he has told me what everything I have to do and he just before the competition when I’m training, he just makes sure that I don’t overdo anything so he doesn’t give too much of his insight. But during training, when I’m wearing my headset, he really gets pissed off because that’s the time he gets, he says his inputs like technical corrections and everything, so he’s very critical about me wearing headsets during the training. Sometimes, I think he gives instructions on purpose when I have my headphones on just so he can scold me, saying I am not listening. “You are just hearing music. What bloody music are you listening to when I am telling you these things?” So during training, I have to keep those headsets right away and then train. That’s how he is. 

Lavanya: Perfect. How similar are you to your dad? Like we know how he is as a coach, right? But just in terms of how you all approach your sport or at home, how similar and dissimilar are you guys?

Sreeshankar: We are similar in some ways, we are dissimilar in a lot of ways but when it comes to the love for the sport we are the same. When it comes to the prepping up and everything, he’s way more serious than I am. I take it easy. He never takes anything easy. Every single minute detail matters. So in those minute details, we are very different. For example, if I fail to have a banana before the competition, for me it’s not a big deal, but for him, it’s a big no, and he’d say I need to have enough carbs and question why I didn’t eat my banana., He takes everything very seriously.  Whenever my friends or family members come and talk during training sessions, like the technical sessions, he really gets mad. He just can’t tolerate simple things because he feels that a lot of minute details contribute a lot to high performance, so he never compromises on anything. During the training he’s very strict. Sometimes I take it easy, but he’s never like that. So in those cases, we are a bit different. But for the sport, love for basketball and everything, we are just the same. But almost every time we fight each other. So we go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It’s kind of fun actually. We travel together every time in different countries and through it all, he would make fun of me, I would make fun of him. It’s a kind of very good atmosphere. 

Lavanya: From your dad to another coach you had spoken about your interactions with Dr. Klaus Bartonietz and he always stresses on the importance of peaking cycles. So what are your views on periodization and following cycles when it comes to peaking during or before an event? 

Sreeshankar: That’s entirely up to the coaches to plan everything. My dad discussed peaking cycles with me. We need to prioritise. I’m someone who wants to do a big jump in every competition, but my dad is completely against that. He always believes that in the first couple of competition rounds, you don’t really have to jump big. You have to prioritise the main events - we are focusing on the World championships, the Asian Games, the Diamond League finals, and those competitions are the ones which we have to prioritise. So there is no point in jumping big at the start of the season, so we need to focus on the preparation. So after the first competition which I had in Bangalore, my jump was around 7.94 only. So I told  dad that I need to jump far in the next competition. I need to do this, do that. He said, take it easy. We are not jumping for this. The season is going to be very long, you have to jump far by the first week of October, so we need to take training very carefully. This time, we have two periodization cycles. My dad always believes that one periodization cycle is important for years when we have major tournaments. So since I’ve qualified for next year’s Olympics, what my dad feels is that we could just focus on one periodization cycle. No indoor season, no opening up season in March or April. We just start slowly in May, June so that we can get the right performance around August when we have the Olympics. So planning has to be done very properly and I’m very happy with the way Dad plans my all the competitions, all the training programs and this time around, we had to skip a lot of competitions, like the one in Greece, one in the US, so that I’m not exerting too much during the competition and getting the right training at the right time. 

Lavanya: Right. Nihit has a burning question to ask you beyond all this training and all of that, do you and your father support different NBA teams? 

Sreeshankar: Not really. We are on the same page because he’s a fan of the Golden State Warriors and I’m also a fan of the Golden State Warriors. Ideally, we should have supported different teams, but I don’t know why we are on the same page for this. We are big fans of Steph Curry. But we also admire Michael Jordan. I think it’s not just me or dad. My cousins are also into basketball, so all of us are, except for one cousin, Golden State Warriors fans. Only one of my cousins is a big fan of the Lakers and LeBron James, but apart from that, like five or six of us are die-hard fans of the Golden State Warriors. 

Lavanya: Brilliant, yeah. 

Jonathan: You had this big thing about the Mamba mentality. Has it changed to the Steph Curry mentality? Or is it still the Mamba mentality? 

Sreeshankar: Irrespective of the team you support, Kobe Bryant will always remain at the core of my heart, sir. Not just me but in all our hearts, like my full family. Kobe Bryant was a different kind of animal. He had a different work ethic and a different approach to the game in a career that spanned across two decades. That signified his legacy on the basketball court. The more I got to know about him, the more my respect for him as an athlete and basketball player grew more and more. So, the Mamba mentality is one thing which I will always have in my heart. So my dad always used to remind me whenever I felt off, “What about your Mama mentality?” and that picked me up and we were back to work mode again. So Kobe Bryant is someone who is very close to our hearts. I have a picture of Kobe Bryant in my home, in my living room. We have a portrait of Kobe Bryant there. 

Jonathan: Ohh wow, what about in your room? What’s the poster in your room? I’m guessing this is your room. 

Sreeshankar: Yes, this is my room. This is my study desk. This is Usain Bolt. 

Ipsit: That’s the time when Gatlin bowed down to Bolt, right after beating him in the last race. 

Sreeshankar: Yes, this desk has every Usain Bolt memory from 2008 to 2017. I have it in here. Like this is from the 2012 Olympics. This one is from the 2017 World Championships. This is from the Moscow World Championships. I have everything here. It’s like a collage I’ve been adding to for over a decade now. I have had this desk since 2007 or 2008. So after every competition Bolt ran and his pictures appeared in the newspaper. I used to cut it and stick it here. So from 2008, after the Beijing Olympics until the 2017. 10 World Championship I have every memory of him. 

Jonathan: Where’s your picture? 

Sreeshankar: My picture it’s not there. 

Jonathan: Come on, it has. To be somewhere. 

Sreeshankar: Now, I’m not that great an athlete who I myself can look up to. There are a lot of other people who I can look up toI I do have a picture of myself and Neeraj bhaiya in my living room as well. 

Jonathan: Ok, fair enough. You’re talking about your home, your study desk and all. You had told me one time that you had built your own gym as well using the money which you had made from all the prize money which you had got from the Commonwealth Games. Most people will buy cars or whatever. You went and built a gym for yourself. Tell me something about that. 

Sreeshankar: The one thing which we, myself and Dad, planned for a very long period of time, was to have our own gym. In 2019, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we were thinking of setting up our own facility, especially for weightlifting. So we don’t have to depend on anyone. After the 2019 season, we bought a lot of free weights from a place and set it up in our ground itself, in our private space. After the lockdown, we bought a lot of free weights from a place. My dad’s brother had bought a property, so he asked me, “Why don’t you build a gym there?” And from the next day, we started planning for the same. There was some money which I got after qualifying for the Olympic Games from the state government for the preparation. So I invested everything on that, on that gym and we have a very beautiful gym setup now so I can train whenever I want, at whatever time I want. So that’s why I go and train there from 6:00 o’clock to 9:00 or 9:30 sometimes. During the offseason, I go there and train from, like, 8:00 o’clock to 11:00 o’clock, because it’s all my gym and I can train whenever I want. The ROI value for that gym is very high because that’s given me very big results considering the fact that I was coming from an injury back in 2022 in the National Games. So I needed to spend more time in the gym, focusing on my recovery and rehab. So that gym has proven to be a priceless possession for me and I believe that that’s the best investment I have ever made in my life and I will ever make in my life

Jonathan: Nothing like cars, watches? Nothing like that? Not interested in any of this?

Sreeshankar: Not really. The only thing which we are more interested in is basketball, gym training, fitness shoes, nothing apart from that.

Jonathan: What’s the fanciest thing that you’ve bought for yourself?

Sreeshankar: I’m not used to buying any of those fancy things.. Ray Ban glasses, sir.

Jonathan: The ones you’re wearing?

Sreeshankar: No, sir. Those were sunglasses.

Jonathan: Fair enough, fair enough.

Sreeshankar: This is the fanciest thing that I’ve bought.

Jonathan: Olympics ke baad there’ll be more, there’ll be better stuff.

Sreeshankar: Hopefully, sir. Hopefully.

Jonathan: Parotta will be there after the Olympics.

Sreeshankar: I’ll host a Parotta party for all of you, sir. After the Olympics.

Lavanya: Don’t say these things. We’ll actually take you up on it, okay.

Sreeshankar: I’m serious. I’ll host a Parotta party in my place for sure, for sure yeah. There’s a place in Palakkad which is very famous for bun Parottas. It is far from my place but it’s very famous for bun Parottas and non-veg curries. If you visit Kerala or Palakkad some time, you should definitely go and have that. It’s a very small shop but it’s very famous

Ipsit: Because you are throwing this Parotta party for us, let me also assure you that Sportstar will be stalking you, both in Budapest and in China, everywhere you go, you’ll meet familiar faces. We are with you.

Jonathan: Sree, what’s always there with you when you go for competitions. I’m sure your sunglasses are with you but apart from that, what is always in your bag?

Sreeshankar: Ah like my training kit, sir or my luggage bag?

Jonathan: Anything, what do you always carry?

Sreeshankar: Most important things are my water bottles, for sure. I carry two water bottles - one for normal water and one for electrolytes. Then, I usually carry the rubix cube with me and then the spike shoes and everything. I carry a foam roller with me, I always carry a massage ball with me. And the most important thing that I carry with me are my recovery boots because after long travel, long days of travel there’ll be a lot of fatigue in my foot so I use my recovery boots so that my legs are fresh for the next day’s warm up or the training. So, these are the most important things that I carry. And I also carry my Ipads with me.

Jonathan: Fair enough. You just mentioned the rubix cube and I got excited. How fast can you solve it?

Sreeshankar: My personal best is around 28 seconds or something, sir.

Jonathan: You’re a speedcuber?

Sreeshankar: No, not exactly speedcuber, I use the beginner method. But when the algorithms come in the right possible way, we’ll be able to skip three or four steps, so we just land on the best particular side of the cube and we just solve it, just like that.

Jonathan: You mean form the white cross and do like that or?

Sreeshankar: Yeah.. Yeah. Kind of like that. I think in the Youtube tutorial, they start from the white cross and then you have to solve the second layer and then the top layer, like that.

Jonathan: So, you do that method?

Sreeshankar: I do. I do that method only. But I do really want to learn those speedcubing ones but I really don’t have the time. Due to time constraints, I’m not able to learn that F12 method. I think it’s called the F12 method. My friend is a speedcuber, sir. He’ll solve it in like 10 seconds or 12 seconds.

Jonathan: Who is this crazy person?

Sreeshankar: Sir, crazy person…

Jonathan: Intelligent guy. Intelligent person. Who is this intelligent person?

Sreeshankar: Obviously, he’s a crazy guy. He’s from IIT Mumbai. So, he’s obviously a crazy person. He’s my childhood friend.

Jonathan: Because even Reese Hoffer, the Olympic bronze medallist in shot put, he used to do cubing as well. So where did you pick it up from?

Sreeshankar: I picked it up from my cousin, sir actually. Once he was trying to solve the cube, he was looking at the internet, trying hard to solve the cube. He solved it and then I also got inspired. I started solving when I was in eighth standard or something. He taught me the basics, algorithms and everything. I started rubix cube when I was 12 or 14. In the summer vacation I learned that.

Jonathan: So, is it a talking point when you go for international competition or something? As in like you’re the guy with the cube. Is that what people think of you?

Sreeshankar: No, not really. I keep the rubix cube in my room only, just to sharpen my mind, just to make sure that my brain cells are active. I used to do a rubix cube just before the competition just to ensure that my brain cells are firing up quite well. But before that, when I was in school, this cube was a quite significant thing, because a lot of guys bring cubes worth 1,000 Rupees or 2,000 Rupees to school and they start solving it like crazy for 40 seconds, 30 seconds. There used to be competitions, sir. So, I was a very slow cuber. Only when the algorithm strikes good, I solve it in 40 or 45 seconds or probably 30.

Jonathan: What’s your median time? Average time will be 2 minutes I’m guessing?

Sreeshankar: No, sir. At any particular time, I’ll be able to solve it in about 55 seconds.

Jonathan: Okay, that’s embarrassing. I have never done it below that. Using the same method but I’m much slower than you.

Sreeshankar: There are some cubes which are very fast, when we use our fingers right, like the twisting and everything, instead of manually twisting it like this, we’ll be able to solve it quite fast.

Jonathan: Fair enough. Basically, if Shreeshankar wasn’t a long jumper, he’d probably be a cuber. Is that something?

Sreeshankar: No, sir. Never ever. If not an athlete, if not for a long jumper, I would’ve gone for basketball only, sir. That’s for sure.

Jonathan: Fair enough.

Lavanya: We have one last question in the chat, which is from Sahil. People often say that if you are good enough, then you won’t have to rely on luck to win. You obviously need to have skill to win. But what are your thoughts about the role of luck during an event? Is it a factor that’s always present?

Sreeshankar: Luck. I usually believe in something called luck. But it does play an obvious role when it comes to events like long jump, take off and everything matters a lot. When you have equal competitors with you, then I believe luck does play a significant role because when it comes to take off and if you are taking off right or if you’re failing by one millimetre or something then that’s where or something, then that’s where luck plays a significant role. But apart from that, what he said is 100% true.

We don’t have to rely on luck if we are properly skilled enough. We believe in the skills which we have. But when we have equal competitors and when the competition is going tough, then probably luck has got a significant role in that.

Ipsit: Sree, who is the most fun athlete on the circuit? Absolutely footloose.

Sreeshankar: Fun athlete? I would say all the athletes are funny in one way or the other. I haven’t seen any athletes who are very serious and do this, do that. They don’t talk or anything like that. All the athletes whom I met in our national team are very much funny also. Not just the national team, even Tentoglou. Tentoglou is a very funny guy. When we see Tentoglou during competition, we feel that Tentoglou is a very kind of serious guy. He doesn’t talk to anyone. But actually, he is a very cool and funny guy to talk with. He also shares a lot of his kind of insights. Even before, like after the Paris Diamond League, we were coming to the stadium together and we met in the lobby. He said, ‘what’s the next competition, bro? Are you coming to Austria?’ I said, no, bro. I am going back home for the national championship. So, he said, oh, you are doing a national championship. ‘Good. You did 8 or 9 in this condition and I am sure that you will do 840 plus in your national championship.’ So, I was like, thank you, bro. Thank you. Fingers crossed. Touch wood. So, he said, ‘no, no, no. Sure, sure, sure. You will be going to do this and you will think about me that day.’ But after the qualification round, when I jumped 8.41, I was like, oh, man, Tentoglou, you are crazy. And I messaged him also, bro. It happened just like you said. Thank you so much. I said, I know. I know. Because you are quite good in national level competition. Oh, okay. Okay. Fine. No worries.

Jonathan: Ask him to predict something for the world’s well.

Ipsit: He was a parkour guy.

Sreeshankar: For worlds, he is also aiming for the gold medal. So, I think he won’t be predicting anything for the world’s, I would say. But he respects a lot of athletes. He is watching all the Indian athletes. He told me that Indian athletes are doing really well. Especially for the long jump and triple jump. Now Praveen has also jumped really well in the triple jump. So, the whole world is watching us, sir. Not just Tentoglou, but coaches I met during the Diamond Leagues and the competitions abroad, they are of the opinion that Indian jumps have come quite good this year. You guys are jumping consistently well. And now you guys are jumping overseas too. So, that’s a very good sign for Indian athletics. That’s true. So, who is this? Okay, all of you, all the athletes of the circuit are fun.

Jonathan: Who is one athlete you guys think, who is the stingiest?

Sreeshankar: Who doesn’t pay ever?

Ipsit: When you guys go out.

Sreeshankar: There is no one like that, sir. Because whenever we go out, like when I was in IIS and all of us like myself, Praveen, Jeswin, Abdullah, Karthik, everyone used to go out and have something. Sometimes I used to pay for everyone. Sometimes Praveen said, no, no, no, I’ll pay for everyone. Sometimes Abdullah said, no, no, no, I’ll pay for everyone. Sometimes Jeswin said, no, no, no, I’ll pay for everyone. We don’t split our bills. We never split our bills, sir. Every time someone says that, okay, I’m going to pay for everyone and they just pay. We don’t split like you pay 100, you pay 200, you pay 100, you pay 300. It’s never between us, sir. Someone or the other takes the responsibility. We are paying. We are just getting out. That’s it.

Ipsit: All of you are top-level athletes. So, clothes do not make you. You make the clothes. Whatever you wear, you are going to rock it. So, who is the fashion icon in your immediate circle?

Sreeshankar: The one who cares a lot about fashion is Eldhose Paul.

Jonathan: Oh yeah, he has done modelling and stuff, right?

Sreeshankar: I don’t know if he has done modelling but he is very crazy with all the new clothes, new attires. He is very photogenic also and he also likes a lot of photography. So, he has a professional camera with him also.

So, fashion-wise, Eldhose Paul is the craziest guy when it comes to fashion. When it comes to clicking pictures and everything, editing and everything, he is the craziest guy. So, I usually randomly take a pic with my phone and just stand like this. He is like, no bro, you have to stand like this, widen your feet, widen your stance. Then post like this, look here, look there, like this. Then he edits and sends the picture. So, he has got great insights about this photography thing. And also, Abdullah told me recently that Eldo is crazy about shopping. He used to buy new clothes, put new clothes, take pictures, post on Instagram, and get more likes.

Jon: Sree are you superstitious.. not superstitious.. Tejaswin the other day said that athletes have all sorts of crazy beliefs they have, like they eat this thing because it’ll help them to do better in the competition, like they eat mustard or they’ll rub soap on their legs to help in recovery. Do you have any crazy things like that? Things you don’t know why you do it but they work?

Sree: I had a lot of stuff like that, like I told you about solving rubik’s cube. It’s not scientifically backed up that it’ll fire my brain cells just like that or make me feel alert. I do that because I feel like it’ll help me. Before all the competitions that I jumped I have done this so I kind of carry forward like practice for all competitions like solving the rubik’s cube. But I think it’s more with the kind of mental thing. I’ve heard a lot of athletes following one particular routine for their competition like watching a movie or just going out for shopping. I’ve also heard of international athletes doing this the day before the competition just to make sure that they are free in their minds and everything. So I usually don’t do a lot of superstitious things like I have to do this, I have to do this but one thing which I always used to do is that rubik’s cube thing only, which has no scientific backup. So my dad asked me why are you solving this thing every single time because that sound kind of irritates him. He tells me to put that thing away and get some rest. I said no dad I have to fire my brain. He said who said this thing will fire your brain. I was like oh no one told that, there’s no scientific backup but I still do this.

Jonathan: How do you start preparing to compete? You said you started when you were 13 or 14 in a summer vacation but before a competition like how did that fire of “I should do it” come about?

Sreeshankar: Because I think mental alertness is very important during the long jump event because we need to have high levels of focus and high level of concentration to get the rhythm and everything. So I used to do this practice before doing any maths problem or doing some physics problem to fire my brain up and before going for exams also I used to solve this rubik’s cube and leave for the exams. So I thought why not use it before my competition. So one competition I took it with me and I did it and I did a good jump so I kind of take it with me every single time.

Jonathan: Do you have a model of a cube or just a random cube or is there a brand name? 

Sree: No, no. Just a random cube 200-300 rupees rubik’s cube.

Ipsit: Sree, are you tracking.. you track your fellow jumpers and track what they are doing globally. I’ve been very keen on this boy Echevarria from Cuba. He had that freakish jump. He was good and Tentoglou and him had a fierce competition which he lost only on countback. You were there. His qualifying was like a ridiculously easy 8.50. I haven’t seen him in a long, long time, and wonder what’s happening with him.

Sreeshankar: I got to know from some of my friends in Cuba and even Jeswin who was training in Cuba for some time. So what I got to learn from them is that post 2021 Olympics, he’s not training anymore. There are some issues, like internal issues happening with his country so he’s not training right now.He is a terrific jumper. If there was any jumper who could have had a genuine shot at the world record, it’s Echevarria who could have done it. 8.95 only he could have done. No one apart from him.

Jonathan: Sree, Coming to world championships, this is an event that takes place in two days. What are the challenges of peaking twice in a few days? We have seen that sometimes qualifying goes great and then the final goes lower than that, sometimes lower than that. To be fair, in your case it’s not that low. It was like 8.40 then the 8.20 in the inter-state final. So it wasn’t that much of a difference it’s still close but in a few cases that dropped off dramatically from qualification to the final. In events like Javelin throw people fell off completely. Why do you think that is, is there something that can be done to overcome it. What do you do, what have you experienced?

Actually what people do is in the qualifying round they take it easy. Take it easy in the sense they make sure that they are qualifying for the finals and get ready for the finals. So Tentoglou is one person who takes the qualifying round very easily. He just makes sure that he gets the cut to finals. I think 8.15 is the automatic qualification. He just do that and get ready for the finals in the next day so for me also this happened with me quite a few times because in world championships I did 8 metres in the qualifying round and much less in 7.96 or something in the finals and in the commonwealth games first jump I did was 8.25 and then finals i was struggling to cross the 8 metres. Same thing happened with me in the inter-state also. It’s more like the kind of pressure or the kind of mindset. In qualifying you have nothing to prove you just need to make the qualification, you take everything easily. The technique goes in and you get the right jump when it comes to finals there’s obviously a pressure of

getting the medal so that’s where we kind of fray and our technique collapses and don’t get the jump right. This has happened with Echevarria also. In Doha in world championships, he did 8.40 in the qualifying round just like that and in the final he did it only like 8.3. Same thing happened with him in Tokyo also. So the pressure of the medals or the big jump obviously comes in the final and the finals is entirely different from qualifying because we could feel the pressure inside when we step into the stadium in the finals we could literally feel the pressure building. So I think that might be the one reason why some athletes fall short in the final. 

Jonathan: Is it something that can get, you have been through this situation three times now, so it something you can eventually overcome or is it sometime it work sometime it doesn’t, it’s that sort of a Thing 

Sreeshankar: I think with more experience and becoming more mature I’ll get past this because now I believe that I’m in a good position to give a good performance in the world championship so I need not take that kind of stress in the qualifying round. Hopefully I’ll get a good jump in the qualifying round and then better jump in the finals. I think with more and more competitive exposure that will get away.

Ipsit: To use a Basketball terminology you say it’s a clutch jumper like a clutch player. There are some athletes that you know you can never count them out even if they have had horribly previous five attempts. We have seen you as an athlete, there have been players who are very dangerous when pushed to a corner.

Sreeshankar: Yes, I think I’ve seen that with female athletes also like Malika Mihambo the German long-jumper. She put that 7 metre jump in the last round of her finals and she won the gold. Tentoglou also was trailing at fourth place until his last jump and then he jumped 8.41 and tied with the gold medal and he won. So I think that usually comes with experience they have in the competition. Those experiences help them have the belief that they have that one jump other than losing mind. They never let themselves down. They always fight back.

Ipsit: Not wanting to be uncharitable here, it’s like Vetter never thought that he would have been beaten. He was throwing 96-97 metre bombs. Never thought he would be beaten. Could happen. Sports is like that.

Sreeshankar: That’s exactly what Mamba Mentality is all about.

Jonathan: You have it tattooed anywhere on you?

Sreeshankar: No, Sir. Dad is against tattoos. 

Jonathan: One thing I just wanted to ask as it might come as a dumb question, but since I’ve got to I can ask well. So you get 6 jumps in the long jump. Is the last jump like you’re physically exhausted at that point in time, or do you generally keep going even beyond that? What is the absolute physical like the what’s the last...the most tired you get during an event like the long jump? 

Sreeshankar: I think we have to prepare in such a way that we give all-out performances in all six jumps. That’s the main intention for the long term especially when it comes to the World Championship, it’s like do-or-die for all the six settings. So we can’t just rest or something if we are very far ahead of the field, like probably like you know 30 or 40 or 50 centimetres ahead of the field. I think it’s not common in the long jump to have 50 centimetres or 40 centimetres lead in the competition. So I think in the long term it’s very important to kill it at every single attempt which we have because when the stakes are very high in the Olympic Games and World Championship, you can’t take any kind of risk if you’re taking the lead for the five rounds. Also with probably an 8.50 jump we have, we won’t be sure that we’ll be able to get the gold because there are guys who have that mamba mentality in them who are lined up and who are yet to jump and we can expect that they will jump. So we have to be at our very best and not celebrate. So that’s what I learned from Tentoglou. Also he’s ready to give his best at six jumps no matter what the performance is so in the world indoors in 2022 I mean last year in Belgrade, he did 855 and then took a rest. He did like another jump of 826 or something in the fourth jump, one jump skipped and the next and the last jump, he obviously won, he was waiting for the US guys to jump and when he thought that those guys were not jumping far enough, but (Thobias) Montler jump 838 or something, then Tentoglou got fired up again and boom! An 852 or 851 jump again. So, he could have easily skipped that attempt and just celebrated with the gold but he never backed it down. He finished his competition with the big jump like 851, two jumps over 850 in an indoor event. That was incredible. 

Jonathan: Sree, what do you think is physically the absolute limit? Everything goes right, you run for perfect conditions, you nail your board and pick the edge of the board. What do you think is the absolute limit? You know which is physically possible for you. Is it something you think about in a hypothetical something like this? 

Sreeshankar: There is a distance in which my dad believes that I’m capable of doing it, but he feels that it would take me some time so that I’m more mature enough. I have more experience and more physically well-built to do that distance, but I’m sure that I will be able to do it. I can’t properly say that distance now, but it’s not a hypothetical one. It’s something which I’m sure that I’ll be able to do. 

Jonathan; So Santa just wanted to know. You were Speaking of tattoos. Did you ever have any idea like if I could get a tattoo, if my dad would allow it then what would it be? 

Sreeshankar: Kobe Bryant tattoo, like the Mamba mentality tattoo. I want to have a big one in my chest but my dad is like, you don’t have any tattoos. 

Lavanya: Sree, what is this? When you start, you start with a small tattoo. You don’t start with something that big.

Sreeshankar: My dad is very, very, very old-fashioned. I told him directly. You’re very old-fashioned when it comes to certain things. He’s like. No, no, you don’t have to have tattoos. 

Ipsit: So there, there must be times when you do feel very confident and cocky obviously, and he must be telling you I was a better guy. I did not have your resources. This is a real conversation because he is, of course. There is some unfinished business between you and your dad and combined together. Do you have these conversations with him because as you tell me, he was very explosive, right?

Sreeshankar: He was very explosive. He had a very good vertical jump and explosive qualities. Recently I’ve read about Vikas (Gowda) - a former discus thrower and my dad was also coached by his father, Shive Gowda sir. When my dad was in the national camp, he was coached by Shive Gowda sir. So I’ve seen John Anna and Andrew posting about Vikas Gowda sir and people asking him that you should have a podcast with him also to have his insights because he has been far from the Indian athletics picture for quite some time. I think he lives in the USA so, I’ve seen people asking him to have a podcast for him also, that would be very insightful. We are all very eager to listen to him. His ideas of sport and his ideas about the current Indian Athletics performance now. My dad was coached by Shive (Gowda ) sir when he was in the camp. So my dad used to tell me how explosive he was, how the good qualities that he had processed that day. My dad always used to say that he didn’t have that kind of vision, which I have. I always dreamed of having an Olympic medal or a World Championship medal, like representing India on the global stage and winning a lot of medals for the country. My dad used to say that back in those days, we never had any kind of big goals or dreams. We just win the National Championship, go for SAFF tournaments or go for maximum Asian Games and then come back and just chill out and hang out just like that. We didn’t have a serious goal or anything in our career. That’s what my dad always wants me to have. Like a very serious intention about what I have to do so he always makes sure that I don’t repeat the mistake that he has made as an athlete and I always fulfil the kind of potential that I have as an athlete. So that’s why. That’s why I believe in most cases he is very strict with my routines and he’s very sceptical about my training schedule, my recovery things and everything so I think he doesn’t want me to repeat the kind of mistakes that he did. So I think it’s kind of good also. You need to have a task man to guide you in the right possible direction, no matter how focused you are there are the feeling of getting distracted on this path and it’s always, and it’s always lucky to have one person and if it’s your dad, it’s well and good to just guide you in the. Like, screw you. Screw you up like you know, tune you up and. Make you in the right possible direction. 

Lavanya: Guys, if I may, Sree, it takes a lot of maturity to say that right to understand what your dad’s vision is for you and to go along with it. Have there ever been points where you fought with your dad or if you’ve had a disagreement saying, You know, I’m just a kid, let me be a kid. I want to do this. I want to go out and eat a burger. I want to stay up late. I want to go watch a movie and not rain. Have there ever been moments like that? Even if it was when you were much younger. 

Sreeshankar: Every single time. But for him, the kind of seriousness which he used to train me when I was a young kid, to the point where I’m right now has been the same. He always wanted me and treated me like an Olympic champion, like the discipline of an Olympic champion, because when I was a kid back in school days when I was in 10th standard or 12th standard if I don’t take proper rest before the training session, he used to scold me. I said, Dad, it’s just an easy session and I just need to go out with my friends. No, you can’t just go out and play with your friends and come back for the training session and not focus on your training and get injured. This is not happening like this if you want to achieve a big goal after 10 years you have to be really, really committed and very focused. So whenever I used to have a technique session on the weekdays at school he never allowed me to play during my PT period. Sometimes he used to just look at my face and said I think today you played basketball in school. I said no even though I played. I say no, but then probably after one or two repetitions I used to cramp my calf muscles and he used to say that you lied to me. You have played in your school. And I could see that evidently in your field you’re not fresh enough for training and he used to scold me like crazy, used to scold the shit out of me. So he has always been very serious when it comes to training and when it comes to discipline. He always used to remind me that dedication, discipline and determination are the three things which are required for an athlete, and you have to focus and follow that principle for you to be successful, and that’s the three things I always take it in my mind because if you want to perform consistently for a very long period, you need to have that sort of discipline. I think discipline is a key aspect for an athlete altogether and that always helps in having a very long. Also, so that is one person who always focuses on having this kind of discipline, and now I’m pretty much used to that kind of routine like by default everything is falling according to my training schedule, how he says and how we want to chart out things like taking rest before the training session, post-training recovery methodologies, sleep and everything. So apart from my sleep schedule, everything is in place. 

Lavanya: We should title the podcast as Sreeshankar and the sleep saga, poor guy.

Sreeshankar: Obviously, I’m trying to get my sleep schedule better, but I always make sure that I’ll get at least 8 hours sleep. But yesterday also we had a fight over this thing like yesterday night Dad told me that what are you doing at 1:00 O’clock in the night. I heard a sound from your room. I said that I had some work and I slept at 1:30, but I woke up at 9:30. So is that OK? It’s not a matter if you sleep eight hours. You have to sleep right on time and you have to wake up right on time, that’s discipline. Then I gave him some weird explanations and we started fighting it all over it. 

Lavanya: So has your dad ever had a rest day from being a Dad/Coach? Has there ever been a rest day for him? 

Sreeshankar: The next day after the competition, he’s pretty chill so I don’t have any training sessions. So he’s kind of very relaxed after I have a good jump, then he’s kind of relaxed and he’s very chill. But that night he again switched back to that coach mode and said tomorrow morning. You are fit for training.

Lavanya: So the window is really small basically.

Sreeshankar: That window is very small. 

Jonathan: I think you went for a vacation in Goa after the Commonwealth Games. That is the first vacation in a long time I think you had. 

Sreeshankar: Yes, after a very, very, very long time. So that 2022 season was very tiresome for me. So I told Dad that I need to go. So my mom also convinced him, and that was the time I had my first vacation. So I knew that, oh, this is what is called vacation, going out with friends, chilling out in Goa. OK, this is vacation.

Jonathan: Wait, did you know what to do on a vacation like you’ve never had one? So how did you know what you’re supposed to do on a vacation? 

Sreeshankar: I really didn’t know so, but it all comes automatically now we are in Goa. We are just hanging out with friends. We do all stupid, crazy things. Just travel, go here and there. It was kind of fun. 

Jonathan: In your first competition back in 2015, I think you came third in that competition U18 Nationals I think it was at that time. Now you’re one of the best of all time in India. Were you satisfied with third place or at that time was your dad not happy or were you thinking that I could have done better? Or were you thinking like, wow, my first competition going outside? This is interesting. First time I’m seeing something like this. What was that like for you? 

Sreeshankar: That wasn’t actually my first competition. My first competition was in 2014. It was in the 2014 junior national championship in Vijayawada I think and I won gold there in the under 16 category in the long jump. So that was my first ever national competition and that’s the first time when I got to see. Neeraj (Chopra) Bhaiya also I think Neeraj set a national record there in that competition. So I think that’s the first time I saw Niraj Bhaiya competing there as well. So that was my first memory of the.

Jonathan: Is it still Neeraj Bhaiya if he’s your age? Maybe one year older too. 

Sreeshankar: I think I’m used to calling him Neeraj Bhaiya only. So I don’t feel like calling him by name. I always feel that he’s quite senior to me. From the time I met him, I’ve called him Neeraj Bhaiya only. So it’s kind of carried on till this day.

Jonathan: Correct, because I’ve always seen you calling Neeraj Bhaiya but you’re. I was seeing your age, you’re basically of the same age. 24-25 it’s the same age only. So I’ve always found it very interesting. Do you remember anything about him from back then? Both of you guys were the national champions at that time. Was it in the same age category or different age category? 

Sreeshankar: I think it was a different age category. I was in under-16, he was in under-18 I think. 

Jonathan: Correct, correct. But I don’t think you spoke to him at that point.

Sreeshankar: No, no. I think the first time I spoke to him was during the 2018 Federation Cup, only that time I got the chance to speak with him.  But till now every time I get a chance to speak with him or I kind of interact with him, I always have the feeling that, OK, he’s such a big athlete and I always make sure that only the right words are coming out of my mouth. And even if it wishes me congratulations, tune bahut acha kiya (You performed well), so I always think twice or thrice before texting him something. So I get so anxious because it has to be perfect. After all, he is going to be an Olympic champion, but when you get to interact with him more we don’t have that kind of feeling that Neeraj Bhai is such a big athlete. He is so grounded and such a nice person, such a humble person. I wonder how someone with such a magnitude of achievements when we see his resume, has everything that an athlete can achieve and the way he still behaves with fellow athletes and fellow competitors and young developing athletes like me, it’s simply incredible. I always believe that he’s a kind of role model for all athletes across every generation, irrespective of every generation Neeraj Chopra is a role model for all athletes, not just because of his achievements, but also because of the kind of human being is, because of his humbleness and his grounded attitude is the reason why he is scaling more and more success. That’s what my dad believes. My dad said to me once, that because of his (Neeraj) humbleness, and his grounded attitude, he will reach more and more and more success because he’s that kind of person. 

Jonathan: Did you ever feel that gold medal of his in the Olympics? You guys were both in the village at that time. Did you get to feel his medal?

Sreeshankar: Unfortunately, after his qualifying round, our flights were booked and we had to come back to India. So when I met him for the felicitation ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office, I got really excited though. I think I left the day before his finals only but the previous day, when we were discussing and having a chat like Neeraj was leading the qualifying round and we all knew that it was a sure shot gold medal for us, but there was no such anxiety or no such tense atmosphere inside the room because we shared a common apartment. Myself, Neeraj and Dr Klaus (Bartonietz) shared a common apartment and when we used to discuss a lot of things we never had the feeling that after two days, this person was going to achieve something which no Indian has ever achieved and is going to make history in Indian Indian athletics or probably in the history of India. So we never had that feeling. Everything was so simple. It was just like any other international competition. And after we won the gold medal, I kind of realised the magnitude. What yaar? Oh, my God. I was in the same room with this person like three days before and look what has happened now? We were all so pumped up, it was a crazy feeling for us, to win a gold medal in the Olympics in athletics. No words, absolutely no words. 

Jonathan: And you said it changed your mentality as well. It changed your beliefs as well.

Sreeshankar: Not just for me, but for all the athletes that has caused a big paradigm shift in all our mindsets because a person, who is our very good friend, who is a very close friend of ours won a gold medal, the most coveted medal in the history of track and field. So, we started to have the feeling that this is not just a mystery or not just a fiction anymore. We will also be able to do it if things are done properly because we have the potential like we are jumping quite good in domestic circuits. We just need to get more and more international exposure. More adaptation to different conditions and we also started to have the feeling that, OK, we will also be amongst the world beaters so that has caused a completely different change in our mindset, so that was quite evident last year. Seven athletes were in the finals for the World Championships, so that was the first time India had ever produced such good results. And that too, when the competition was tough in the US and also in the Commonwealth Games we had like 8 medals. So I think that graph will only grow and grow and grow. And Neeraj Bhaiya has just set the tone for a big change in athletics will, and that thing will really prove to be one of the biggest shifts in the minds of athletes like the incident which has caused a big shift in the change of mindset of that it will obviously be Neeraj Bhaiya’s gold medal

Jonathan: Do you allow yourself to think about things like the World Medal, or Olympic Medal or you just don’t think about things? Is it like you don’t want to jinx it, so you don’t think about it as well? You just think about performance and medals will take care of themselves. Or do you even think that maybe this is what it will feel like to hold a medal?

Sreeshankar: I don’t feel any kind of feeling because my dad is a very practical person. He doesn’t believe in superstition. Zero belief in superstitions and jinxes or anything. So he always believes that we have to aim for the performances and obviously we have to aim for medals. Talking about medals, obviously, we have to win it. It’s not a big deal, but we have to win it. We do have to discuss winning medals. We do discuss the strategies to win medals because after a certain stage, no matter how much we jump or how much distance or performance we have, it all matters. We have a medal because at the Commonwealth Games, 8.08 is not a big jump, compared to World Championships or anything, but it was good enough for a silver medal. The Commonwealth Games silver medalist title always stays with me forever. That’ll be there with me for a very long time. So medals are also very important. I think it’s more important than even performance at the inner stage where it matters, like probably at the World Championship, the Olympic Games. So we do discuss it. And we don’t feel any kind of pressure or anything with regards to it because it is what it is. We have to come when it comes to the practical picture, then obviously medals obviously matter and we have to find all possible ways, optimise our performance in all possible ways so that we get that covered in metals. 

Lavanya: Sree Santa is asking if you are allowed to live the life of another athlete for one day. Who would it be? 

Sreeshankar: Live the life of another athlete. Like for any sport or athletics. 

Lavanya: Any sport, any sport. 

Sreeshankar: Ohh, Cristiano Ronaldo. Not because he’s very disciplined. I would say, Steph Curry. 

Lavanya: And if it’s just athletics. 

Sreeshankar: If it’s just athletics. That’s a very tough question to ask. I think Noah Lyles because he’s a person who spends his time with music and gaming and stuff like that. He’s also a very good family person and he has also got a good circle outside with his gaming friends and he does a lot of music and stuff like that. 

Ipsit: He’s also taken to YouTube recently, very well, explaining his event the technicalities and. 

Sreeshankar: Breaking down his race like stage by stage is doing really good. 

Ipsit: How to run the curve? How to start? How to do the 200 metres? So it’s quite interesting young athletes taking charge of their own sport and these athletes you guys are very different from. What we were used to, and good, rightfully so, and thankfully so. 

Lavanya: Does that mean you’ll be vlogging your process and all of that? Also at some point? 

Sreeshankar: I was discussing with one of my friends recently that if I start a YouTube channel, not even my dad will subscribe to my channel. There’s no point I think.

Jonathan: You’re really underselling yourself over here. 

Ipsit: We need to let Sree go because we have had it for two hours. 

Lavanya: Yes, Sree. If possible, I’d actually like to close with one question and this is not a sports question. We love biopics. This country is now so obsessed with sports because we’re able to see people achieve things that we didn’t think were achievable at one point. So if there was a movie made on you and what you’ve managed to do and like you, your dad especially, especially the two of you. Who do you think the actors would be who would play the two of you? 

Sreeshankar: To be very honest, I have not achieved that kind of big things in my life so far that a biopic should be made in

Lavanya: Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter. Just keep what you’ve done so far. You and your dad. Who do you think will play each? 

Sreeshankar: I think since it’s a long jump and it requires more technical events. If the producer is paying me well then probably I like myself. 

Ipsit: That cannot be the final question. It has to be. It has to be Mammootty or Mohanlal. 

Lavanya: I was coming to that only I thought he’d say. Maybe his dad. Who do you think would play? 

Sreeshankar: But my dad is very, my dad’s acting skills are very poor, so probably the director has to hire a very good actor for that role. I can act quite well. And have to jump and if a biopic is made in my name then basically I have to jump. So I think jumping is not meant for like a lot of actors. So probably I could do that for myself if not VFX and everything, but I can do it for myself. But for Dad, I would say probably some actors have to take charge. 

Lavanya: So sad we have to snip this and send it to his Dad, he just kicked him out of the movie.

Ipsit: Jon, I’m being a bit greedy here. 

Jonathan: Think about me. I want to ask more questions. 

Ipsit: You do. You do better, for reasons we can’t. 

Jonathan: I know, I know, we can’t. 

Ipsit: So since Sree has qualified for the Olympics and. I hope he gives us more such interactions going forward when it suits him, not obviously biting into his time or his practice time or anything. Whenever he is comfortable. Let’s get him on. 

Lavanya: Maybe at that parotta party. 

Sreeshankar: Ah yes. Oh yeah, for sure, yes. 

Ipsit: The party is still a fair bit but before the Parotta party, whenever Sree you are free or you want to speak about something, we would love to discuss more sports and even get more hands-on with your event and all. 

Sreeshankar: Sure, sure, Sir. 

Ipsit: This was a really good deep dive, but. I want to dive even deeper. That’s all I’m saying. And if that, that, that would make it boring for a lot of people. But I would want to scratch that. 

Jonathan: I learned so much about your event, which I had no idea about. Just the way you prepare for the day before what goes on, the planning that goes in all, I had very little idea about it. So it was super explanatory. I know that people will find other stuff interesting as well, but for me, this was the like. The really interesting part of this conversion. 

Sreeshankar: So preparation is very important, that is a key aspect for the performance like how we eat, how much we sleep and things like that, very, very important. 

Jonathan: And I don’t think it gets spoken of enough, so I really appreciate, you know, you’re speaking about that. I mean with us and really appreciate it. 

Sreeshankar: Thank you, Sir. 

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