M. Sreeshankar was closely following Monday’s Belgrade indoor athletics meet in the Serbian capital from his home at Palakkad, nearly 6500kms away, and there was plenty to inspire him including Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis’ world record.
The long jumper, virtually the country’s No. 2 in athletics after Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, was keen to know how the Stark Arena track felt like and more.
Sreeshankar will be jumping at the same venue next week, at the World indoor championships, and the Belgrade indoor meet offered him a chance to mentally fine-tune himself for the big event.
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The 8.17m that fetched him the gold at the thrilling Jumps Nationals in Thiruvananthapuram earlier this month has brought his confidence back and he is hopeful of a good performance in Serbia.
“My rhythm is good, am feeling much, much better now than I was at the Tokyo Olympics. I won’t promise anything but I think I can do it… my main focus will be to better my national record (8.26m),” said Sreeshankar in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.
“We (he and his dad-cum-coach S. Murali) are just focusing on getting into that rhythm. The main focus is the outdoor season, if my rhythm is good, the jumps will start coming well. If I’m able to get something like 8.25-plus, it will be a good morale booster for me for the outdoor season and the outdoor Worlds in Oregon, US, where the competition standard will be very high.”
Belgrade will also offer him a chance to brush away the bitter memories of last year’s Tokyo Olympics where he suffered muscle imbalance and fared poorly after which the Athletics Federation of India even ordered Murali to stop training his son.
Nothing of that sort happened – though the youngster has hinted on a couple of occasions that he is open to working with quality foreign coaches along with his dad – and the father and son have quietly worked on many aspects to improve his jumps.
Murali, however, will not be with Sreeshankar to guide him in Belgrade where the only other Indian in action will be Asian shot put record holder Tajinderpal Singh Toor. Only the two have qualified for the indoor Worlds and M.S. Dhillon, a throws expert, will be the lone coach. And India has decided not to send its relay teams to Belgrade.