Tokyo Olympics 2020: Shreeshankar Murali sets sights on competing in top-quality competitions after sealing Games quota

“Winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics is achievable, but it’s tough,” Shreeshankar told Firstpost. “There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to competing in the Olympic Games.'

FP Sports March 21, 2021 18:13:28 IST
Tokyo Olympics 2020: Shreeshankar Murali sets sights on competing in top-quality competitions after sealing Games quota

File image of Indian long jumper Shreeshankar Murali. Image courtesy: Twitter/@WeAreTeamIndia

After sealing qualification for the Tokyo Olympics with an 8.26m jump at the Federation Cup athletics event last week, India’s Shreeshankar Murali has set his sights on competing in international competitions to gain valuable exposure and sharpen himself mentally to compete at the big stage.

Shreeshankar crossed the 8m mark with all five of his jumps at the Federation Cup, but it was his fifth one with which he bettered his own national record of 8.20m, set three years back at the National Open Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar.

While his jump created a flutter in track and field circles and on social media—with many pointing out that USA’s American Jarrion Lawson finished fourth at Rio Olympics with a leap of 8.25m while bronze medallist Greg Rutherford had a leap of 8.29m—the 21-year-old has been more circumspect and was quick to temper expectations.

“Winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics is achievable, but it’s tough,” Shreeshankar told Firstpost. “There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to competing in the Olympic Games. One of the things I need is international exposure through quality competitions against top-class athletes. I’ve never competed in a Diamond League competition also before.”

He adds that a jump of 8.40m will be good enough to land him into the medal spots at Tokyo.

While his 8.26m leap seems flattering when compared to the final standings at the Rio Olympics five years ago and the London Olympics (where an 8.26m jump would have led him to silver), Shreeshankar has experienced first-hand that competing at the big stage such as the Olympics and the World Championships is a different ball game altogether.

At the 2019 Worlds in Doha, Shreeshankar—just months after setting the Indian national record with a jump of 8.20m—did not make it to the finals after a best attempt of 7.62m, which placed him 22nd overall.

But now, with the Tokyo 2020 qualifying done, the Palakkad native is eyeing European competitions to hone his skills, and more importantly, test them against the best in the world.

“Europe is where all the good athletes will be trying to compete in during the summer. If I can get entry into some Diamond League competitions that would be really great. I’ll see if I can get into some World Athletics invitational tournaments. I’ve been told by the Athletics Federation of India that they will send me abroad to compete. I don’t think there will be a lot of events happening in April and May. But from June onwards there will be competitions, so I will be looking forward to competing there,” said the JSW-supported athlete.

“I’ve been preparing for the Olympics for a long time,” said Shreeshankar, whose parents have represented India internationally. “Since I was a small kid I always wanted to go to the Olympics. I’m very happy that this is happening.”

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