Sarvesh Kushare - India's highest jumper who trained on cattle feed pits
Sarvesh Kushare, India's best bet in High Jump, has come a long way from training on makeshift landing pits in his village stuffed with cattle feed and other agricultural waste.
Sarvesh Kushare, who won the high jump silver medal at the Asian Athletics Championships in Thailand on Saturday, has come a long way.
Till a few years ago, he had been trying to perfect his technique so that he would not injure himself while landing on a makeshift pit made of cattle feed and other agricultural wastes in his village of Devargaon in Maharashtra, 30km from Nashik.
Now, he is India's best high jumper and is going to be the country's best bet at the upcoming Athletics World Championships and the Asian Games this year.
"A few things in life came very late to me, but everything has worked out in the end. When I used to try to land on a pit made of agricultural waste back in my village, it used to be a big challenge. It was risky, but I just trusted my coach RW Jadhav and went into my jumps blindly. To be honest, that sort of training helps me now to minimise error," Sarvesh told The Bridge hours after his silver medal.
Sarvesh's 2.26m jump on Saturday, the second best in the Asian meet, was significant for many reasons.
Firstly, it was the first time that he had managed to pull off a massive jump in a foreign meet. "This was my first time in Thailand, I enjoyed the experience a lot. The ground was great, the competition was good," he said.
The 2023 Asian Indoor Championship and 2019 South Asian Games were his only foreign meets before this. At the indoor meet earlier this year, he had finished 6th.
Secondly, Sarvesh's jump gave him valuable ranking points to help him in the race to qualify for the Paris Olympics and the upcoming World Championships in Budapest. Currently he is 29th in 'Road To Budapest' rankings with 36 set to qualify.
Sarvesh also definitively established himself as the premier high jumper in the country with his silver medal. High jump national record holder Tejaswin Shankar, whose presence made the high jump event in Thailand have two Indian jumpers, finished 7th.
"Tejaswin has now shifted to Decathlon for the immediate future. It is great to compete alongside him, he doesn't act like he is different in any way," Sarvesh said on his long-time competitor whose national record he has so far unsuccessfully chased.
The Indian high jump record remains the 2.29m mark that Tejaswin achieved back in 2018. Since then, however, that mark has remained unmoved. It is only in the space of the last year that the 28-year-old Sarvesh has mounted a renewed challenge.
"I have been training with Jithin Thomas at the ASI Pune for the last year, working on smoothening my jumping technique. The best part that has happened for me is consistency. I am jumping 2.30m in training. My aim for now is to repeat that in the World Championships or Asian Games," he said.
For the longest time during the high jump final, it looked as if Sarvesh would finally break the national record. Till an agonising traling leg knocked the bar off at 2.28m even after his entire body had crossed the line. Disappointed, Sarvesh held the back of his head for a few moments, before erasing his disappointment and acknowledging the cheers.
"I still do not know when my leg brushed the bar. It must have been a problem with my technique. That jump would have set me up to go even further, would have brought my rhythm back," he said.
Sarvesh upped his game in his first major Asian meet, it remains to be seen how high he can set the bar at the world level next month.