National record holder long jumper M Sreeshankar's return to action after a horror show at the Tokyo Olympics will be keenly watched when he lines up for the inaugural National Open Jumps competition on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old Kerala jumper had a forgettable performance at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing 13th in his qualification group with an effort of 7.69m, a far cry from the 8.26m he cleared last year. The disappointing show led to the sacking of his father S Murali from being his coach by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). Sreeshankar was on the verge of missing the Tokyo Olympics after faring poorly at the fitness trials just before the Games.
The AFI had cleared him after his father submitted a written assurance that Sreeshankar would produce at least the qualification performance in Tokyo. But that was not to be in the end. The youngster would look to forget all these unsavoury incidents of last year and start the season on a confident note with the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games lined up in the year ahead.
As many as 75 athletes, including 29 women, will compete in the eight events in the meet, conceived by AFI to give the jumpers a competition at the start of the season. Sreeshankar's battle with Kerala team-mate Muhammed Anees Yahiya can result in a high quality competition at the long jump pit, though many athletes could be using the meet as part of warm-up for the bigger competitions ahead in the season.
Yugant Shekhar Singh would be eager to make it a triangular contest. The men's triple jump also promises to be an exciting contest. The 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Arpinder Singh will be eager to battle it out with the likes of Abdulla Aboobacker, Karthik Unnikrishnan, Eldhose Paul and Gaily Venister Devasahayam.
Sandra Babu and Ancy Sojan, two of the top five women's long jumpers last season, could be seen in a thrilling duel, but Nayana James is slated to return to her first competition after August 2019. James is the only jumper in the field with a personal best of over 6.50m mark.