I know I am one of the best, the other guys know it too: Tentoglou

The Greek jumper, like Neeraj Chopra, kicks off his Olympic defence in Doha and is focussed more on easing into competition than jumping far.

Published - May 10, 2024 09:40 pm IST - Doha

File photo of Miltiadis Tentoglou

File photo of Miltiadis Tentoglou | Photo Credit: AP

What do you call a 26-year-old athlete who has won everything on offer, is the reigning Olympic and World champion and considered among the greatest ever in his event? An Indian might say Neeraj Chopra but if you shift the continent and sport to long jump, he will answer to Miltiadis Tentoglou.

The Greek jumper, like Chopra, kicks off his Olympic defence in Doha and is focussed more on easing into competition than jumping far. “The motivation to continue comes from my love for the game, I still want to grow and get better and jump more, push my limits. It’s very early for me, but I’m confident and I’m expecting something solid, Tentoglou told The Hindu.

There is a lot more in common between the Greek and Indian athletics icons, in fact, than just their ages or even achievements. Like Chopra, Tentoglou is among the handful of athletes back home at the top level and an inspiration to an entire generation. He is also someone who prefers to focus on pushing himself and his performances rather than eyeing any particular target. And, like the 90m club membership that Chopra wants but isn’t obsessed about, Tentoglou has set his sights on 8.75m as a dream distance.

Why 8.75m? “I just like this result. If I do that, it will be among the all-time top-five (8.74m is the current 5th best jointly). But it’s also because I believe I can do it. I have calculated and I know it is possible for me. I cannot say I can do an 8.90-95m, that’s maybe not possible for me right now. But 8.75, I see myself doing it,” he explained.

With Murali Sreeshankar as one of his friends from the sporting world, Tentoglou is impressed with the Indian jumpers in recent times. “I honestly believe it’s because of Chopra. He inspired a lot of people in India. Of course it’s a big country with a big population but I see very good athletes, talented kids there. They have very good bodies, good balance. There may be others also but I can talk about jumps specially, and in the next few years you will have even more.

“Shankar is a very good friend, a nice guy and a talented jumper. Unfortunately he’s injured now but I wish him a speedy recovery. It’s never happened to me, luckily, in an Olympic year but getting injured so close to a big event is very painful and difficult. It’s heartbreaking,” he shrugged.

Earlier in the day, he was asked about being the man to beat and Tentoglou had quipped, “That’s not for me to say but I know I am one of the best. The other guys know I can jump very well any time so I think I put pressure on them. Also, unlike pole vault, long jump you can finish in five minutes if you are too good.”

The warning shots have been fired.

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