Kerala boy first Indian to qualify for men’s long jump final in 2022 World Athletics Championships

National-record-holder Murali Sreeshankar is the second Indian athlete to achieve this feat, after fellow Keralite Anju Bobby George.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jul 16, 2022 | 7:31 PMUpdatedJul 27, 2022 | 11:55 AM

M Sreeshankar long jump

Kerala boy Murali Sreeshankar on Saturday, 16 July, became the first Indian male long jumper to qualify for the 2022 World Athletics Championships finals on the first day of the competition at Eugene in Oregon in the US.

Sreeshankar, who entered the championships as a dark horse for a medal at the second spot in the season’s top list, had the best jump of 8m to finish second in the Group-B qualification round and seventh overall.

Kerala’s Anju Bobby George was the first Indian woman — and the first Indian — to make it to the finals of the World Athletics Championships and the first to win a bronze, a feat she achieved in the 2003 Paris edition of the event.

Two other South Indians in the fray — Jeswin Aldrin (7.79m) from Tamil Nadu and Muhammed Anees Yahiya (7.73m) from Kerala — failed to qualify for the final round after finishing ninth and 11th in the Group A qualification round.

The fallout

The athletes who achieved the 8.15m mark or finished as the top-12 performers from the two qualification groups qualified for the finals, scheduled for 6.50 am IST on Sunday.

Sreeshankar could not touch the automatic qualifying mark of 8.15m, but made it to the finals as one of the 12 best performers in his Group.

The 23-year-old from the Palakkad district in Kerala has been a consistent performer this year, with an 8.36m jump at the Federation Cup in April at Thenipalam in Kerala.

Trained by his father S Murli, Sreeshnkar shattered his own national record of 8.26m, which he created in the Federation Cup in March 2021 at Patiala in Punjab.

Following his 2022 Federation Cup achievement, Sreeshankar recorded 8.31m at the 12th International Jumping Meeting at Kallithea in Greece and 8.23m at the National Inter-State Championships.

Uphill task

It will be tough for Sreeshankar to win a medal in the final, among the world elites in long jump.

The world number 13 will have to face 2020 Tokyo Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece, who won the Group B qualification,

Then there is the challenge from world season leader Simon Ehammer of Switzerland and Cuba’s Tokyo Olympics bronze-medallist Maykel Masso.

Japan’s Yuki Hashioka (8.18m) and the US’ Marquis Dendy (8.16m) — the only two athletes who went past the 8.15m mark during the qualifying event — might also prove a challenge to India’s national champion.