With long jump at the recent Diamond League happening late at night, M. Sreeshankar missed watching Simon Ehammer make Swiss history in Oslo but he had a close look at the action on Instagram the next morning.
Sreeshankar, the World No. 8, had to skip Oslo — where Ehammer became the first Swiss male to win a Diamond League title — as he had to be in Bhubaneswar for the inter-State Nationals that began the same day, June 15.
The Athletics Federation of India exempted only two athletes, Olympic champion javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and Commonwealth Games silver medallist steeple chaser Avinash Sable, from competing in Bhubaneswar.
Only a week before Bhubaneswar, Sreeshankar made history when he became the first Indian long jumper and the third athlete from the country to win a Diamond League medal, with a third place finish in Paris behind Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou and Ehammer.
Sreeshankar did not grumble or groan about the Oslo miss but made it clear how precious the Paris Diamond League finish was to him.
“I’m happier with my 8.09m in Paris than the 8.41m here (in Bhubaneswar),” said the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, in a chat with The Hindu. Incidentally, India has the world’s top two long jumpers this year with inter-State Nationals’ gold medallist Sreeshankar’s 8.41m, which came in the qualification round, being the second-best long jump in the world this year. It was just a centimetre behind 2023 world leader Jeswin Aldrin’s 8.42m which came in Ballari in March (Jeswin took the silver in Bhubaneswar with 7.98m).
“According to dad, technique-wise 8.41 was the best one I had in my life. Everything was perfect. I was very good in the approach. Was in proper sync. I took it easy that day and due to humid conditions, we changed our warm-up strategy,” said Sreeshankar.
To get an idea how big Sreeshankar’s jump is and for a comparative study, one pored over the World Athletics’ scoring table which offers points for all its events. It gives 1227 point for his 8.41m which is equal to a 9.94s 100m (Amiya Kumar Mallick’s National record 10.26s), an 8:06.81s steeple chase (Avinash Sable’s NR 8:11.20s), a 17.58m triple jump (Praveen Chithravel’s NR 17.37m) and an 88.80m javelin throw (Chopra’s NR 89.94m).
Now, after missing Oslo, Sreeshankar’s next big task will be to do well in the next two Diamond League meetings in Lausanne (June 30) and Zurich (Aug 31) so that he can qualify for the Diamond League Finals in Eugene in September.
Chopra won the javelin throw Diamond League Trophy last year. What are Sreeshankar’s chances of pulling off a similar act?
“Ha ha... first I need to have enough points for the finals. Already missed Oslo... should do good in Lausanne and Zurich,” he said.
A few years ago, one would not even have dreamt of asking athletes such questions. But Chopra’s Olympic gold has made us think big. And Sreeshankar is now slowly being acknowledged as one of the world’s best long jumpers by the event’s elite.
“Tentoglou told me in Paris that I will jump 8.40-plus at the National championship,” revealed Sreeshankar.