Being left out of World Championships squad nearly broke me, says Jeswin Aldrin
The long jumper is finally part of India's World Championships squad but the chaotic build-up was far from ideal
Long jumper Jeswin Aldrin has had a tumultuous few weeks. The 20-year-old was left out of India's squad for Commonwealth Games (CWG) and World Championships despite meeting the mark before being belatedly included in the Worlds team recently. Excited to be part of his maiden world championships, the youngster talks about the "emotional rollercoaster" he has been through.
The past month has been quite tough on you. Please take us through your emotions.
The past 2-3 weeks, even months, have been an emotional roller coaster for me. I was happy to have met the CWG mark, but was left out of the squad. Then, I shifted my focus to World Championships and began training hard for that, but was not picked. That was a much bigger blow. Past two weeks were particularly bad. I barely kept myself together. Being left out of CWG was shocking enough, but the rejection from WC nearly broke me. After the Patiala trial, I was told my fate is up to the selection committee. I went home convinced that I won't make it, so this news came as a great surprise. I am really happy.
Did you expect to be left out of World Championships squad, to begin with?
My name was in the first list, I had met the qualifying mark long back, so naturally, I thought I'll make the cut. When they announced the squad and my name was not there, I was really, really sad. It was a bit of a shock actually. The reason given to me was my so-called injury and dip in performance. In the Worlds trials, despite me not being at my best, I went past the CWG qualification mark (7.98) in Thiruvananthapuram.
What happened at the trials? You were asked to jump close to 8.10m, but you couldn't touch 8m.
A day before the trials, I jumped 8.20m in training. So, I was shaping up quite well. The problem was, I didn't get proper rest. The chief coach asked that between Patiala and Thiruvananthapuram, where would I be comfortable travelling to for trials. Since I was in Bangalore then, I thought Thiruvanthapuram should be fine. However, there were no direct flights and I had to take a bus. It was a really tiring journey, and I caught a fever on the way. I reached the trials completely exhausted. I couldn't do my best there and managed a best jump of 7.99m. I personally felt it was good enough, to be honest. I was asked to come for another trial in Patiala. Again, too much travel took its toll and I could do the best of 7.93m.
What about your ankle niggle? It was said you were carrying an injury in Europe.
The Europe trip was planned after I met the CWG and Worlds mark, and the primary goal was to give me some international exposure. I was not carrying any injury whatsoever. My performance went down in Europe because I was not peaking then. Also, I was supposed to reach two weeks before the competition, but my visa got delayed. I eventually reached just two days before the event. The body takes time to get used to the change in the climate. The ankle though was completely fine all along.
How about the Inter-State?
My performance in books looks really bad, but if you watch the competition closely, you'll realise that I didn't do that badly. My foul jumps were really long, and I was in very good shape. It was just a bad day that all my good jumps ended up being a foul. I jumped 8.20-8.30m a few times. In one jump I slipped in my run-up and didn't finish well. So, it was a bad day, but with some luck, it could have been much better.
What are your targets for your maiden World Championships?
My only target is to go out there and give my best. My coach has asked me to just go there, gain experience, and have fun. I don't have a distance in mind, but I do want to give my best. I want to do well for all my fans and supporters, and I will give them every reason to be proud of me. In fact, quite a few jumpers from various countries have expressed their shock and solidarity in private to me. Tejaswin Shankar has been a constant support. We were in touch almost every day for the past week or so since we were in the same boat. He told me to just hang in there and keep training hard.
Do you feel the entire situation was avoidable?
Yes. If I had a clear plan, I could have scheduled my competition and training accordingly. There was so much happening that neither could I focus nor could my coach plan anything. In a perfect world, I could have devoted a lot more time to building my strength, speed, in top shape for Worlds. I don't think I'll be getting an entry to CWG because even Tejaswin couldn't get it despite getting a favourable judgment in court. In fact, in CWG, there was a great chance of all three Indians finishing on the podium in the men's long jump. Perhaps it was not meant to be.