2020 was supposed to be a busy year in India’s ace jumper Murali Sreeshankar’s still nascent career.
With qualifying events leading to Tokyo lined-up one after another, the national record holder looked fit enough to leap over the 8.22m qualification mark in the Indian Grand Prix which was to be held at Patiala in March.
“I was eager to perform as I had the belief. I wanted to get done with the process as it would have allowed me more time to focus on preparations for Tokyo Olympics in July,” the 21-year-old said, who remarked that he had to undergo appendix surgery in 2018 which took crucial months out of his training programme.
“Getting a medal in Tokyo would have been tough (not impossible) this year as we long jumpers tend to reach our physical peaks at the age of around 25. While I was putting 100 per cent of my efforts to achieve my short-term objectives, long-term vision was to develop a physique and technique which can improve my chances of a medal at the 2024 Olympics in Paris,” Sreeshankar told The Free Press Journal.
However, when the situation took a downturn with postponement of qualification events and thus the Olympics, Sreeshankar saw a window of opportunity to prepare himself better for the Tokyo Olympics by tweaking his fitness regime.
“At first, it was a shocking experience, Indian Grand Prix was cancelled just hours before its start. So the uncertainty over the future chain of events was also playing on my mind as I flew back for Palakkad before flights were completely called off.
“I was confined within the four walls, hoping things will get better, but my father, who is a former international and also my coach, kept looking for new ways to keep me fit and motivated,” Sreeshankar said, while adding that he had to stay under quarantine for two weeks after returning from Patiala as per government directives.”
Sreeshankar, who holds the national record of 8.20m, said it was a blessing in disguise for him as he is now able to gauge his performance by studying minute details.
“During lockdown, I got a chance to do a lot of exercises which I didn’t get time to do before due to packed calendars. I have been doing a lot of strength, core and mobility training. I could clearly see the results when I got the permission to train at the nearby ground for two hours a day after lockdown relaxation.”
And as the domestic season begins in September, Sreeshankar is confident that this phase will have a positive impact on his performances in the coming season as he still has a lot of time to improve and train at home itself.
“The intensity with which I am training now is high. As there was a lot of uncertainty before, the initial plan was to hit peak fitness by July-August, but now as the dates of domestic season are out, the plan is hit the peak in September and maintain it through October and November before the Olympic qualification begins. My primary focus is to hit the 8m-mark consistently in state and university championships starting from September,” he said.
Sreeshankar, who is pursuing an under-graduate course (B.Sc (Mathematics)), feels the lockdown has also forced him and his cousins who stay in the same street regain the lost touch.
“Though we stay so close that we can see each other through our windows, recently, we were not able to stay in touch as life creates a different path for all. Through this phase, we have been able to get our unique sort of reunion while also maintaining social distancing. This has helped me stay positive and combat negativity under confinement,” Sreeshankar concluded.