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Passion and Hardwork Motivates Murali Sreeshankar to Leap Past Setbacks

The 23-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian to win a silver medal in the CWG men’s long jump.

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Edited By :Ahamad Fuwad

On a cold windy night at the Alexander Stadium in Smithfield, Birmingham, Murali Sreeshankar took a leap of faith that made him the first Indian to win a silver medal in men’s long jump at the Commonwealth Games.

The 23-year-old's impressive jump of 8.08m in the finals earlier this month was on par with LaQuan Nairn of the Bahamas, who was in the lead. However, it was not good enough to clinch him a gold.

Sreeshankar finished second as LaQuan’s second-best jump of 7.94m proved better than that of the young Indian (7.84m). The rules of long jump state that if two jumpers are tied on same distance, one who has a better second-best effort will be ranked ahead of the other.

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Despite winning silver, Sreeshankar's celebrations never went overboard as he knew he had a real shot at gold. In fact, following his fifth and best jump of the day, a sigh of relief etched across the Palakkad-born jumper’s face rather than happiness.

“The initial feeling was that I was happy about it as I was trailing behind for the first four jumps in fifth position. So, 8.08 was a big relief as it put me into medal contention,” said Sreeshankar in an exclusive interview with The Quint.

Meanwhile, Sreeshankar looked the happiest after his fourth jump which would have easily won him a gold had it not been ruled a foul under the new laser-based technology.

“I was not very happy because I had a good jump in the previous attempt (fourth). It could have won me the gold medal. It was more like I was satisfied with the next jump (fifth),” Sreeshankar explained.

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This was the third competition in Sreeshankar’s career wherein the officials have employed the new system. He first experienced it at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade five months back.

Sreeshankar, who despite his hard luck is aware of the successes and failures that come with the sport, said, “In sport, we have to accept that.” He also shared an insight into a technical aspect of the sport that cost him dearly in the final.

“The main setback was when my jump was reviewed by the technical committee, the distance was recorded not from my body but rather it was from the mark of the sleeve which touched behind my body. This pit, being technologically innovative, measures everything, even the slightest disturbances in the pit.”

“So, I lost a considerable amount of distance with that. Easily, I lost an 8:20 jump,” he explained.

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The 23-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian to win a silver medal in the CWG men’s long jump.

Murali Sreeshankar (left) poses for a photo after registering a new national record in long jump at the Federation Cup in Kozhikode last April. 

(Photo: IANS)

Belief in Ability and Approach Paid Dividends

Like every other sportsperson, Sreeshankar has had to deal with a few struggles in his young career, be it injuries or poor performances. He, however, believed in his abilities and stuck with his approach no matter what.

The young jumper's progress over time has a lot to do with the ‘hitch-kick,’ more commonly known as the ‘cycling’ technique that he adopted four years back.

In simple words, the hitch-kick technique involves a jumper continuing his running motion (like punching the air with legs or cycling) in the air after the leap, bringing both legs forward, and finally placing them in front into a suitable landing position.

It’s not the easiest of methods to grasp, however, Sreeshankar found his calling the hitch-kick way. “I changed my technique four-five years ago. The technique suited me quite well. It gave me some extra time in the air and carried my centre of gravity forward. So, I was able to cover good distances,” he explained.

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The shift to the hitch-kick method was a smooth one for the young Sreeshankar as he showcased his dominance in the domestic circuits as early as the 2018.

He first made waves in the athletic circles back in March 2018 after clearing the 7.99m mark during the Federation Cup in Patiala. In September that year, he catapulted himself to the top by breaking the national record for the first time at the National Open Championships in Bhubaneswar with an 8.20m leap.

Sreeshankar then set a new national record by breaking his own record with an 8.26m effort in the Federation Cup in Patiala in March 2021.

Most recently, he announced himself as the best in the country with a 8.36m jump in the Federation Cup held in Kozhikode last April, thus, breaking his national record a second time.

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The 23-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian to win a silver medal in the CWG men’s long jump.

Murali Sreeshankar competes in the men's long jump finals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. 

(Photo: PTI)

A Need to Prove Himself Globally

Despite his dominance in the domestic arena, Sreeshankar still had to prove his potential globally, especially after his 2020 Tokyo Olympic debacle.

In Tokyo, he managed to register just 7.69m in the qualifying stage and failed to make it to the finals. The Tokyo exit was tough and the talented jumper had to undergo a difficult phase so early in his international career.

“In Tokyo, I was not at my best due to the issues I had with COVID-19 and successive vaccinations. So, my body condition was really bad. After that, all my physical parameters were literally zero. I had to build from that point until now,” Sreeshankar recollected.

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The long jumper had to undergo rehabilitation, followed by intensive strength training programs and rigorous recovery methods to get back into shape.

However, that was not the only challenge. He also had to work exclusively on his fitness before he could get back to training.

All his efforts eventually came to fruition as he created history in Birmingham. Sreeshankar ended India’s long wait of 44 years for a medal in the men’s long jump event. Before Sreeshankar, another Keralite – Suresh Babu – had bagged a bronze in the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada.
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The 23-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian to win a silver medal in the CWG men’s long jump.

India's Neeraj Chopra won the 2020 Tokyo Olympic gold medal in men's javelin throw.

(Image: PTI)

Christian Taylor Fan Finds Inspiration in Neeraj Chopra

Sreeshankar, a fan of US track and field athlete Christian Taylor, however, finds the inspiration to excel at the top through another familiar face – his athletics teammate and star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra.

The Keralite was all praise for the Tokyo Olympics gold medal winner, calling him a mentor and brother.

“We all have our own global icon in Neeraj Chopra. He is like a big brother and mentor to me. He motivates me and supports me a lot. If you ask me the name of an athlete whom I look upon as an icon, it's always our brother Neeraj Chopra.”

Humility and simplicity are few of the traits the young jumper wants to learn from India's top athlete. Sreeshankar wishes to be like his idol and wants to remain grounded even in times of fame and money.

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The 23-year-old created history by becoming the first Indian to win a silver medal in the CWG men’s long jump.

India's Murali Sreeshankar in action during the Monaco Diamond League. 

(Photo: IANS)

Passionate About His Sport Despite Setbacks

Meanwhile, Sreeshankar showed how passionate he was about the sport as he travelled to Monaco to compete in his maiden Diamond League event just days after the conclusion of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Ignoring constant travels, jetlag, and fatigue, he decided to compete at the big stage. However, passion only takes you so far. All these eventually took a toll on the athlete’s body, and he managed to finish just sixth.

“In the span of three weeks, I had three competitions. It was absolutely tiring for me. I was fatigued due to continuous competitions and travel. When it came to the competition, because of the tiredness and fatigue I was cramping my calf muscles continuously,” he said.

Sreeshankar, who is coached by his father S Murali, a former international triple jumper, will next be seen in action at the Diamond League in Lussane, Switzerland on 30 August. The triple jumper expects to wind up this year’s calendar with the National Games expected to commence on 27 September.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Athletics   Long Jump   Murali Sreeshankar 

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