Talking about failure is difficult for an athlete. Ankit Sharma, the national record holder in men’s long jump is upset about his performance at the Rio Olympics but he did open up and acknowledged the areas he fell short.
Sharma said multiple factors were responsible for his poor form during his Olympic debut. To start with, he was not able to cope with the pressure at the athletics stadium in Rio.
“After failing to make an impact in the first two qualifying attempts, I just could not find the right rhythm in the third and last jump,” said Sharma, explaining why he could not even touch or improve his personal best distance in Rio. “It was probably something to do with pressure of competing at the Olympics. I just wilted.”
On June 26, Sharma had jumped a distance of 8.19m at Almaty, Kazakhstan. The qualifying mark for the final in Rio was just 8.15m. Had the Indian managed to jump his personal best, he would have been in the final.
Sharma’s jump in Almaty had raised hopes for a good show at the Olympics. But, within a span of six weeks, his form took a drastic dip.
Despite reaching Rio at least ten days before his event, Sharma claims he wasn’t able to adjust to the local weather conditions.
“It rained before my event. The temperature dropped to below 20 degree Celsius, I wasn’t used to it and couldn’t find my rhythm,” he said.
The 24-year-old added that the time zone difference drained him physically. “Of the ten days, the first five days were quite taxing as I wasn’t able to get proper sleep,” he said.
However, as a professional athlete competing at the highest level, Sharma is used to travelling across the world to compete. Besides, he also had an experienced coach with him—Bedros Bedrosian from Romania.
Ahead of Rio, he had set a target of 8.20m. If he had managed that, he would have challenged China’s Wang Jianan, who finished fifth with 8.17m. That would have been a great performance and a confidence booster for the youngster.
However, on the day of the event (August 12) Sharma fouled the first two attempts and his third was just 7.67m, far from his personal best.
From April to the beginning of July, India’s top athletes were scrambling to make the qualifying mark for Rio. As many as six national records were broken. Perhaps, the late focus on achieving qualification meant that the Indians peaked a little too early.
In Sharma’s case, his past statistics hints at the not-so-rosy pattern.
In 2009, his personal best was 7.59m, recorded in Ranchi (June). A month later, during the IAAF World Youth Championships, he could only manage 7.47m.
A year later, at the IAAF World Junior Championships, his best was 7.40m. It was nearly 33 centimeters less than his personal best of 7.73m set in Kochi earlier in 2010.
This year too, he failed to perform to his potential on the big state in Rio.