My focus is on booking Olympic berth, says long jumper Sreeshankar

New Delhi: Murali Sreeshankar, India’s national men’s long jump record holder, is geared up to compete in the second leg of the one-day Indian Grand Prix Meet scheduled for Thursday at Patiala’s National Institute of Sports (NIS) campus. Sreeshankar is focusing on achieving the 2021 Olympic qualification mark of 8.22m.

Sreeshankar’s personal best and national record of 8.20m was set in September at the 2018 Open Athletics Championships held in Bhubaneswar.

The 21-year-old athlete from Palakkad said he is targeting to better his personal best mark. “I have got my Covid-19 test done. All is good. I’m excited at competing in the competition after more than a year. My main focus during the competition will be on achieving a personal best, and go past the Olympic qualification mark,” Sreeshankar told IANS.

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After Sreeshankar achieved his personal best and national record in 2018, the 2019 season didn’t go on expected lines for the talented jumper as he finished a disappointing 22nd in the preliminary round of the Doha World Championships. His best jump in Doha was 7.62m. The top 12 athletes entered the final round.

“I couldn’t achieve a good rhythm, and it resulted in a poor performance in the jumping pit,” he recalled the missed opportunity.

After the World Championships, Sreeshankar quit the national camp and trained under father S Murali, a former international triple jumper. To stay fit during the lockdown last year he had set up a gym at his home in Palakkad to focus on strength and conditioning programme as he couldn’t train outdoors.

However, in May when the government issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to resume sports activities, a local medical college in Palakkad opened its door for the national champion. “Being an international athlete I had the privilege to train at the medical college ground. But when the cases surged, I quit outdoor training. It was tough to maintain fitness,” he said.

Sreeshankar says the past one year has been very challenging. “I’m hopeful all the hard work done under difficult circumstances would enable me to achieve a good result on Thursday. A good rhythm should assist me to sail past my personal best of 8.20m,” he said.

Since the outstation athletes are staying outside the NIS Campus in Patiala, they have to submit Covid-19 RT-PCR negative report, mandatory to avail the bib number, to compete in the one day competition.

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