There has been no doubt about M Sreeshankar's talent and commitment. However, the young long jumper had a tendency to perform well at regular events but falter on the big stage. Finally, the Keralite held his nerve and produced the result that fans back home had been waiting for - a medal at the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The 23-year-old from Palakkad redeemed himself with a silver-medal winning jump of 8.08m in the final on Thursday night, banishing the heartbreaks of the Tokyo Olympics and the recent World Championships.
Sreeshankar has been a consistent performer this season barring the poor show at the Worlds where he finished seventh, fouling three of his six attempts. Although he could only manage a best of 7.96m in the final at Eugene, Oregon, he became the first Indian male long jumper to have made it to the summit clash of the Worlds. Sreeshankar had set a national record of 8.36m at the Federation Cup in Kozhikode in April.
Athletics runs in his blood as his father-cum-coach S Murali and mother K S Bijimol are former internationals. This silver medal is without doubt a breakthrough moment in his career. It will surely take a huge burden off his shoulders as far as major competitions are concerned.
Sreeshankar was widely tipped to win a medal at Birmingham, especially after topping the qualifiers with an effort of 8.05m. However, he started poorly in the final at the Alexander Stadium and got into the podium position only in his penultimate attempt.
Though Sreeshankar and Laquan Nairn of Bahamas had top jumps of 8.08m, the latter took the gold as he had a second best effort of 7.98m as compared to the former's 7.84m. Though he missed the gold narrowly, Sreeshankar became the first Indian man to win a silver in long jump at the CWG, bettering Suresh Babu's bronze in the 1978 edition at Edmonton.
This will be a huge morale-booster for the youngster and he's only bound to get better. The World Championships and Asian Games are lined up next year and with only less than two years for the Paris Olympics, the expectations will only get bigger.
Sreeshankar has bounced back from the setbacks and it augurs well for India ahead of the big events. He has proved that he belongs to the big stage and this could well be the first of many major international honours.