NEW DELHI: When long jumper Murali Sreeshankar first broke the national record in September 2018 with an 8.20m jump at the Open Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar, it was expected that he would soon achieve the Tokyo Olympics qualification mark of 8.22m. Events and a couple of years passed by but Sreeshankar wasn’t able to attain the target.
In 2019, at the Doha World Championships, his best jump was 7.62m. He didn’t even enter the final round and finished a disappointing 22nd. It is at this point, the 21-year-old quit the national camp and trained under his father S Murali, a former international triple jumper and someone who had coached Sreeshankar since he started developing interest in the sport.
During the lockdown phase, Sreeshankar trained under his father at his home in Palakkad, Kerala. The focus was primarily on strength and conditioning, mobility and improving his running technique.
On Tuesday, all the hard work bore results as Sreeshankar not only shattered his own national record with an 8.26m jump for the title at the ongoing 24th Federation Cup in Patiala, but also booked his ticket for the Tokyo Olympics.
He began with an 8.02m jump before improving to 8.04m, 8.07m and 8.09m in his next three jumps before touching 8.26m in his fifth attempt. “It is a relief to have qualified for the Olympics. This performance has certainly raised my confidence level, but I need to work on my run-up,” Sreeshankar said later.
On Sreeshankar’s feat, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla told, “Every jump Sreeshankar went better and better. We saw it coming. Records are meant to be broken; it shouldn’t stay on as a record for a long time. When a record is broken, it means some progress is being made.”
“I got a bit emotional today. It has come after a long wait and me and my dad have seen several ups and downs along the road,” said Sreeshankar.
Tamil Nadu girl S Dhanalakshmi pulled off an upset in the 100m women’s final in a race that was supposed to be a showdown between current national record holder Dutee Chand and Hima Das. Clocking 11.39 seconds, Dhanalakshmi pipped her more fancied opponents to win gold in the final. While Dutee was second with 11.58 seconds, Hima was disqualified for a false start. The Tokyo Olympics qualification mark is 11.15 seconds, a goal none achieved.
Gurindervir Singh of Punjab won the men’s100m final in10.32 seconds. He had clocked a personal best of 10.30 seconds in the semis on Monday which is the third fastest by an Indian sprinter.