Press Trust of India
Yet to qualify for the Tokyo Games, national record holder long jumper Murali Sreeshankar says it will be a ‘painful wait’ before he can give a shot at his maiden Olympic ticket with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the global athletics calendar. 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 it was to be held on the directives of the government.
The event was scheduled to be held on March 20 without spectators. Later, the Federation Cup Senior National Championships (April 10-13), also an Olympic qualifying event, too was postponed 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 freezed for nearly eight months till November end by World Athletics, Sreeshankar said it will be a painful wait before he gets a chance to take a shot at his maiden Olympic qualification. “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.
“The whole season is over now and 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 added. 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. My aim was to qualify for the Olympics by Federation Cup at the latest. But now I don’t know what will happen next year. I have to start from the scratch, it will be very challenging,” he said.
Sreeshankar is hoping for some athletics action 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 arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic gets better. “Because of the lockdown, I am not doing anything except for some workout on the terrace of my house. But how much I will be able to do it. The jumping pit near my place where I used to train has been out of reach and I am just keeping my fingers crossed thinking about when some sort of normalcy will return.
“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 what else he does during lockdown, Sreeshankar said, “I watched some movies on Netflix, I listen to music and read my BSc. Honours books and surf internet.” Sreeshankar, whom his father S Murali described as a bright student, is now in his fourth semester of BSc Honours Mathematics course at Government Victoria College in Palakkad.
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