BENGALURU : Long-jumper Ankit Sharma always dreamt of becoming a cricketer. But with poor facilities in his native district of Morena (near Chambal in Madhya Pradesh), there was no way he could take it up seriously.
Long jump competitions are part of raksha bandhan celebrations in his native place. The 22-year-old would take part regularly and started getting better. On the suggestion of his parents, Ankit took it up seriously. Next month is a big one for him, as he will be participating in Rio. He qualified for the Olympics with an effort of 8.17m in Kazakhstan.
“I still love playing cricket. Whenever I start feeling nervous about athletics, bat and ball calms me down,” said Ankit. Apart from that, he also tried volleyball. In athletics, he tried triple jump, javelin throw, discus throw and even hurdles. “Had I stuck to cricket out of passion, I might have done well. I wanted to be like Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. But fate takes us wherever it has to. It was my father’s dream to see me do something good for the country. I am thankful to my father and god for showing me the way. My brother supported financially.”
The road to Olympics was difficult. “Grounds in my town are not big enough. So my school teacher and I would dig up walkways and I would train on that. It was difficult, but after taking part in school nationals, I got selected for SAI coaching,” said Ankit, who trains under Nishad Kumar in Thiruvananthapuram.
After taking up athletics seriously, he hoped to represent the country in the Olympics. “It’s every athlete’s dream. Naturally, everyone wants to do well. I can put up a good performance if I keep improving the way I am.”
Despite knowing that it is going to be tough in Rio, Ankit remains positive. “The standard of Indian athletics is improving. For Rio, the qualification mark was 8.15 and I achieved it. We are okay physically. It’s the mentality for big events that can be a problem. I have touched marks of 8.55 and 8.56, but they were foul jumps.”
Ankit believes Indians need to improve in the mental aspect of training. “We get nervous and lose sleep. People get tensed about how they perform and what others say. Indian athletes lack nothing. The motor qualities of our athletes are as good if not better than many from other countries. I’ve been through this phase. I was unable to jump and mentally in a mess. I went to a psychologist and got a great deal of help. I then began to relax and improved gradually.”
For Rio, Ankit feels he has gained strength and speed but is working on the approach stride. “If that is corrected, I can do much better,” said the Income Tax employee.
Clearly, sport is passion for Ankit. And he is going to live his dream next month.