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Next Neeraj Chopra? Murali Sreeshankar aims for track and field glory

Source: PTI
July 03, 2023 17:15 IST
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Neeraj is one of top-five track and field athletes in world: Sreeshankar

Murali Sreeshankar

IMAGE: Murali Sreeshankar in action during the men's long jump. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra easily ranks among top five track and field athletes in the world for his sheer ability to excel in all conditions, India's top long jumper Murali Sreeshankar said on Monday, adding that he might not achieve that level but would certainly become a top contender by next season.


After winning the coveted Olympic gold, the 25-year-old javelin thrower had won a silver medal at the 2022 World Championships. He is also reigning Diamond League champion besides winning three separate DL meetings and gold in Asian Games (2018) and Commonwealth Games (2018).

The 24-year-Sreeshankar last month became only the third Indian athlete -- after Chopra and former discus thrower Vikas Gowda -- to finish in the top three in a Diamond League meeting in Paris.
"He (Chopra) has adjusted to different conditions in the world and has delivered no matter the circumstances are. He is not just a top javelin thrower but also one of the top five track and field athletes in the world right now," Sreeshankar told PTI on Monday in an interview.

"At this stage, Neeraj bhai is comparable to Sandra Perkovic (discus thrower), Armand Duplantis (pole vault world record holder) and Christian Taylor (American triple jumper) in his prime. No matter the expectations and circumstances are, he will deliver and that sets him apart from others."

Murali Sreeshankar

Photograph: Kind Courtesy Inspire Institute of Sport/Twitter

Sreeshankar, who trains at Inspire Institute of Sport in Bellary, is the second leading long jumper this season after his personal best effort of 8.41m at the qualification round of the National Inter-State Championships in Bhubaneswar (June 15-19).

He said he can be near to Chopra's level by next year.

"To reach that level, I need more experience, more and longer training and exposure abroad. This is my first year competing regularly in Diamond League. I should have done that a couple of years back.

"By 2024 Paris Olympics, I may not be in that very high level, but I am sure I will be competitive enough to be in that mix."

Sreeshankar finished fifth in the Lausanne Diamond League on June 30 with a jump of 7.88m, the worst performance this season. He attributed the poor show to the adverse weather conditions and lack of recovery time after competing in the National Inter-State last month.

"The conditions were not that favourable in Lausanne. It was cold, windy and drizzling. There were two contrasting weather conditions, one very hot and humid (in Bhubaneswar) and the other very cold and windy (Lausanne)."

"Because of weather condition I was not able to get my approach right, all my take offs were 30 to 40 centimeters behind the board, I was not able to get my feet properly while taking off, that was the main issue."

He said he was not looking for a big jump or personal best but to be in top three and get valuable Diamond League points.

"I was expecting something like 8.10m if the conditions were favourable. But I could not do that as 10 days back I had two rounds (qualification and final) of competitions in National Inter-State (no time left for recovery)."

He, however, said that he needs to compete in all these competitions so that he can adjust to different conditions and be among the world's elite.

"The takeaway from Lausanne is that I need to have proper recovery time. I need to get adjusted to my rhythm. I have to work on my approach. It really went well during the qualification round at National Inter-State (8.41m).

"I was nowhere close to my rhythm in Lausanne, but getting used to these competitive drill and adapting to different conditions however harsh they may be is very important."

Giving an example of how important adjusting to conditions is, he said, "You need more and more quality competitions to get adjusted to different conditions and get to your rhythm."

"A jump starts and ends in six seconds and I take 19 strides towards my approach. There can be big change if either of my strides go up and down by 5 or 10cm. If there is a change of even 5cm, it will have a big cumulative effect. All these depend mainly on conditions."

Sreeshankar is in the 54-member Indian team for the July 12-16 Asian Championships in Thailand and after that he will not compete in any event till the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary (August 19-27).

"After Asian Championships, I will have five-week gap for World Championships, that will be a solid phase of training. I will not be competing in any event."

"After World Championships, there is Zurich leg of Diamond League which is the only one left before the DL finals in September. So, it (Zurich DL) will be important to try for a DL Final spot (top six of the DL season will compete)."

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