Kerala silver-medallist Murali Sreeshankar adds to year of records at 2022 Commonwealth Games

The 2018 Asian Junior Athletics Championships bronze-medallist, a consistent performer this year, finally landed a medal at the big stage.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Aug 05, 2022 | 6:48 PMUpdatedAug 05, 2022 | 7:48 PM

Kerala's Murali Sreeshankar on Friday, 5 August, became the first Indian to win a silver medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games improving upon fellow Keralite Suresh Babu achievement, who lifted a bronze at the 1978 Edmonton edition. (Twitter / SAI Media)

It was March of 2018. The hopes of Kerala’s Murali Sreeshankar representing India at the Gold Coast CWG ended as he barely survived a ruptured appendix and had to undergo emergency surgery.

In those moments, he would have hardly thought that the next edition of the mega sporting event would vault him to glory.

Cut to August 2022, and the 23-year-old from the Palakkad district on Friday, 5 August, stood on the Commonwealth Games podium.

He became the first Indian to win a silver medal in the long jump event at the CWG, improving upon the achievement of fellow Keralite Suresh Babu, who won a bronze at the 1978 Edmonton edition.

Sreeshankar — or Shanku, as his loved ones call him — has been a consistent performer this year, which helped him and Indian athletics achieve new heights.

He finally has a medal in the long jump on the world stage.

Year of records, history

Sreeshankar entered the history books multiple times this season with back-to-back performances.

The first was setting a new national record in April with an 8.36m jump at the Federation Cup in the Kozhikode district in Kerala.

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

But the national champion was far from done. In July, he became the first Indian male long jumper to qualify for the 2022 World Athletics Championships finals in Oregon in the US, and the second Indian after Kerala’s legendary female long jumper Anju Bobby George.

It’s not over…

The challenging conditions at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham could have interfered with Sreeshankar’s determination.

It was his fifth attempt — 8.08m amid a tailwind of 1.5 m/s — on Friday that put him up in the second spot and ended India’s prolonged 44-year-old medal drought in men’s long jump.

The first three jumps were under 7.90m, way below his season-best jumps that were consistently above the 8m mark.

An unbelievable moment came for Sreeshankar when his fourth jump — seemingly a bigger jump than all of his others — was ruled out by a margin of less than a centimetre (not even visible to the naked eye) due to a breach on the footboard.

The new laser technology, which was used for the first time at the World Indoor Championship this year, has faced a lot of complaints from various athletics federations.

Unable to digest this, Sreeshankar ran to have a chat with the official before checking the replay on the big screen. He stood with his hands on his head in disbelief.

No gold despite best jump

Sreeshankar and Bahrain’s gold-medal-winner Laquan Nairn shared the overall best effort of 8.08 m.

However, Nairn’s second-best attempt was 7.98m, whereas Sreeshankar jumped 7.84m.

South Africa’s Jovan van Vuuren finished third with 8.06m.

But Sreeshankar did not throw in the towel and was ready to go all out in his sixth and final attempt.

To secure the gold medal, he tried to surpass the Bahraini with a 7.99-m second-best jump, and it looked like he did, too. But he again fouled out by the smallest of margins.

Fellow Keralite Muhammed Anees Yahiya was fifth with a 7.97m jump.

Speaking after the medal ceremony, Sreeshankar seemed delighted to clinch the silver.

“I am very happy after winning the silver medal for my country,” he said, wrapped in Tricolour and not ready to let go of the medal.

“Neeraj Chopra bhaiya (brother in Hindi) inspired and supported me during the low point of my career after my poor performance at Tokyo Olympics last year. We are really thankful to Neeraj bhaiya for starting a big revolution (referring to India’s recent athletics achievements at the international level),” added Sreeshakar, who is also pursuing an MSc in statistics, and trying to somehow balance sports and studies.