M Sreeshankar, the only Indian male long jumper to reach the finals at the World Championships, talks to ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra after the latter's historic silver medal feat at the Worlds at Eugene, Orgeon.
“Chopra, draped in tricolour, came to meet the Indian contingent in the gallery immediately after winning the medal. We celebrated his glorious feat, hugging each other. He told us that he could not perform as expected. However, there was not a tinge of disappointment in his voice. Rather, he sounded determined to go one step further and clinch gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games,” tells Sreeshankar.
Usually, you avoid playing catch up at major events, but here you began with a foul throw and the next two throws were not great. What was on your mind?
Yes, I used to produce a good throw in the first couple of attempts at big events. Here the conditions were not favourable. There were strong winds. I deliberately fouled by crossing the line as I knew my first throw was very poor. I was confident of touching the 88-metre mark. However, I had to wait till my fourth attempt to produce a good throw. I tried to do better in the final two attempts, but a hamstring strain doused my hopes.
Eventual champion Anderson Peters surpassed the 90-metre mark thrice in the final. Is the competition getting tougher?
After the Tokyo Olympics, there has been significant improvement in everyone's performance. Anderson's best throw of 90.54 metres here was about three metres more than my best throw at Tokyo which fetched me gold. At Tokyo my best was 87.58 metres. Here I could produce a throw of 88.13 metres. I am able to do better when there is stiff competition.
Being the Olympic champion, you were expected to do well here. Besides, you were carrying the hopes of 1.3 billion Indians. Yet, you managed to stay cool as the competition heated up.
While competing, my sole aim is to produce at least one throw that is technically perfect. If I'm able to do that I feel happy. More than aiming for a medal, my priority is to get the throws right. I don’t worry about the opponents or my position on the list. I was under no pressure in the final. That is why I could produce a silver-clinching throw in my fourth attempt.
What is your advice to Indian athletes, including myself, to do well at international events?
We may not be able to win all the competitions that we attend. If we get a medal, we should celebrate it. If we fail, we should take it as a learning experience and rectify our mistakes. You should not be disappointed for failing to finish on the podium. Being the seventh best long jumper in the world is no mean achievement.
Compiled by Ajay Ben