Thrilled to end his wait for a medal on the global stage, Murali Sreeshankar says clinching silver to become first Indian male long jumper to win at CWG is a…
India’s Murali Sreeshankar in full flight during the long jump final at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Thursday. Pic/PTI
Murali Sreeshankar knows what it means to be ‘close’ to realising a dream. On Thursday night, he had a best of 8.08 metres, which while being equal to the best by anyone else in the long jump finals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games still did not fetch him the gold. The reason: while Sreeshankar and the gold medallist from Bahamas LaQan Nairn had similar bests of 8.08m, the next best jump for LaQan was 7.98m (he also had a 7.94m) as against Sreeshankar’s second best of 7.84m.
Yet, Sreeshankar is happy. After a series of close calls, he finally got to the podium. “I’ve been waiting for a medal [at a global meet] for a very long time. I was seventh at World Indoor and World Outdoor, sixth at World Juniors, fourth Asian Indoors, sixth at Asian Games,” he said, reeling off the names of his failed tournaments after winning the silver. “I have been waiting for a global medal for a very long time, but I kept missing out. This is a small step towards my big goal of the Paris 2024 Olympics,” he added.
Those close shaves came when he did get to the competition. Four years ago, even after being selected, he could not go to the CWG in Gold Coast. He says he still had newspaper clippings of his selection for the Games, but with a few days left for his departure, the Kerala athlete ruptured his appendix and with that went his chances of even boarding the flight, let along competing. “I still have the selection picture of the 2018 CWG that I was not able to go. So, this is a big thing for me,” he said.
It took a long time for him to come back. “I was in intensive care for a week, followed by intensive rehabilitation, so it took me five-six months to get back on track because of the infection and poisoning. “So, winning a medal here in Birmingham feels really great. I am thankful to God and to my father [Murali], who’s also my coach.”
Sreeshankar is only the second Indian male long jumper to win a medal—the first being another Kerala star, Suresh Babu, who took a bronze in the 1978 Games in Edmonton 44 years ago. The other Indians to have won long jump medals in CWG are both women—Anju Bobby George [bronze at Manchester 2002] and MA Prajusha [silver at Delhi 2010] .
In the finals, Sreeshankar did not even come close to his best of 8.36m, but big competitions are sometimes more about mental strength than mere attempts and distances. At one point, Sreeshankar was not even in Top-3 till he leapt to 8.08m on his fifth attempt. As the competition progressed, the conditions became tough. It became cold and windy and the temperature dropped to 17C, but Sreeshankar was not deterred. In his mind, Sreeshankar kept telling himself, ‘all it takes is one jump’. And it did.
With two attempts left, Sreeshankar looked in the direction of his father-cum-coach S Murali and that took him into the medal zone with 8.08m. The sixth and final jump was a foul by a whisker though it seemed in the region of the best he had done for the day. What it may ultimately have been we will never know. But what we do know is that Sreeshankar finally has a medal from a major event.
Originally published at www.mid-day.com