Tokyo Olympics 2020: Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says it's a painful wait for qualification

The 21-year-old Sreeshankar was at NIS-Patiala last month for the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix, a recognised event for Tokyo Olympics qualification, but it was cancelled just hours before start on the directives of the government.

Press Trust of India April 17, 2020 19:07:04 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says it's a painful wait for qualification

New Delhi: Confused and anxious about what the future might hold, national record-holding long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says he is enduring a "painful wait" to get another shot at Olympic qualification after the COVID-19 pandemic threw his plans haywire.

Tokyo Olympics 2020 Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says its a painful wait for qualification

File image of India's M Sreeshankar. Reuters

The 21-year-old Sreeshankar was at NIS-Patiala last month for the first leg of the Indian Grand Prix, a recognised event for Tokyo Olympics qualification, but it was cancelled just hours before start on the directives of the government.

"I went all the way from Kerala to Patiala for the Indian GP 1 but the evening before the event, it got cancelled. It was disappointing but I was fortunate in a way that I could get back home just in time before the lockdown and cancellation of all domestic flights," Sreeshankar told PTI from his home in Palakkad, Kerala.

Later, the Federation Cup Senior National Championships (10-13 April), also an Olympic qualifying event, was postponed too due to the worsening health crisis which has led to the death of more than 400 people in India and nearly 1.5 lakh worldwide.

With the qualification period suspended till November end by World Athletics, Sreeshankar said he feels completely in disarray.

"The whole season is over now and the qualification period begins only in December. There will not be much activity in the winter season and we have to start in February-March next year. It will be a long and painful wait," he said.

Making it to the Olympics will not be easy for the Kerala youngster as he has never touched 8.22m, the qualifying mark for the Tokyo Games. He has a personal best of 8.20m which he achieved in 2018 during the National Open in Bhubaneswar.

"I was in very good shape and form and was looking to clear 8.22m in the Indian GP in the first leg itself. But now I don't know what will happen next year. I have to start from scratch, it will be very challenging," he said.

Sreeshankar is hoping for some action to resume this year to build the momentum for next year. The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is planning to hold National Championships in September-October if the situation gets better.

"Because of the lockdown, I am not doing anything except for some workout on the terrace of my house. The jumping pit near my place, where I used to train, has been out of reach...," he explained.

"Now I am not thinking about any training but about when this pandemic will be controlled or some vaccine is available. The situation is fluid, don't know what will happen after the lockdown is lifted.

"When training will begin and whether we will have this disease at the back of our mind even then. It is very confusing and uncertain," he added.

Asked how else he keeps himself occupied during the lockdown, Sreeshankar said, "I watch some movies on Netflix, I listen to music and read my BSc. Honours books and surf internet."

Sreeshankar, described as a bright student by his father S Murali, is now in the fourth semester of his BSc Honours (Mathematics) course at Government Victoria College in Palakkad.

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