Knee injury ends Sreeshankar’s Paris dream

Knee injury ends Sreeshankar’s Paris dream

Long jumper Murali Sreeshankar, who had breached the Paris Olympics qualification mark during a brilliant 2023 season, has been ruled out of the Olympics and the entire year due to a knee injury, in a significant blow to the athlete as well as India’s track and field contingent for the Games.

Murali Sreeshankar(AP)
Murali Sreeshankar(AP)

In an emotional social media post on Thursday, Tokyo Olympian Sreeshankar revealed he suffered a knee injury during training on Tuesday. After conducting the required tests, it was ascertained that it would require surgery, “ruling me out of the one single thing I have chased relentlessly all these years”, he said.

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“Unfortunately, in what feels like a nightmare, but is a reality, my Paris Olympic Games dream is over,” Sreeshankar added in his post.

It is an injury to the patellar tendon, which connects the bottom of kneecap to top of shinbone. Sreeshankar is in Mumbai currently, where he has already consulted Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala, member of SAI’s Central Core Team of the Central Athlete Injury Management System.

Sreeshankar’s father and coach S Murali said the athlete has been told that surgery in mandatory.

“It happened on Tuesday evening during training. We were planning for a full jump and after warming up with a small jump when the injury happened. I think it happened during take-off because when he landed he was in pain,” said Murali. “We went to hospital and did an MRI instantly. Then he went to Mumbai where Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala said surgery is mandatory. We are planning to go to Doha for one more opinion on where to do the surgery.”

Adille Sumariwalla, Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president, said it was a “freak injury, from what I understand”.

“He told me he felt fine during training, and it wasn’t an impact or anything like that. But then he felt like something snapped (in his knee). It was a freak thing that happened; an injury like this doesn’t happen in training or in competition,” Sumariwalla said, adding that the jumper will be out of action for months.

“It is a significant setback to our Olympics contingent. Sreeshankar had been jumping well recently and producing good results. It is disappointing for him and for all of us in Indian athletics,” the AFI chief added.

The athlete from Kerala is the only Indian jumper so far to have made the qualification cut (8.27m) for the Paris Games in July-August. He achieved it at the Asian Championships in July last year, where his effort of 8.37m not only earned a silver medal but also a Paris ticket.

That performance came in the middle of a hectic yet rewarding 2023 season for Sreeshankar. He added an Asian Games silver, jumping 8.19m in Hangzhou last October, to his 2022 Commonwealth Games silver in Birmingham and finished third in the Paris Diamond League in June. Later that month, he also rewrote his personal best with a big 8.41m show at the Inter-State Championships in Bhubaneswar in a year where he delivered seven 8m-plus jumps.

Recovering and recharging for the big year with his off-season training in his hometown of Palakkad, Sreeshankar was looking to begin his season at the Shanghai Diamond League this month and building on to peaking in Paris, where another 8m-plus leap would have likely seen him competing in the final. He missed out on that at the Tokyo Games in 2021, where his best qualifying effort of 7.69m wasn’t enough for a place among the elite 12 fighting for a medal.

Gutted at not having another shot at that in what would have been his second Olympic appearance as a more experienced and accomplished jumper, Sreeshankar lamented at the “strange scripts” that life writes while also accepting that he will have to move on.

“My journey to a comeback began the minute I injured my knee. This road is going to be long, difficult and will take a lot out of me. The good thing is, I have a lot to give. I will overcome this, because that’s what Mamba Mentality is all about,” Sreeshankar, inspired by the late American basketball legend Kobe Bryant, wrote in his post.

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