If there’s one thing that Sreeshankar Murali has proved by winning a historic silver at the CWG, is that nice guys don’t finish last. The 23-year-old from Palakkad district of Kerala became the only the second male long jumper from the country to win a CWG medal with a best effort of 8.08m in Birmingham on Thursday.
The wiry-framed and ever-smiling (not during training or competition) jumper is one of the most amicable athletes on the circuit. From top stars like Neeraj Chopra to budding athletes and even former players, Sreeshankar, or Shanku as his loved ones prefer to call him, has earned admirers due to his warm persona, dedication and focus.
The First Medal of the Day 💪
Murali Sreeshankar wins the first medal of the day with his 🥈 win and takes India to a medal count of 19 in #CWG2022 🔥#BirminghamMeinJitegaHindustanHamara #B2022 #SirfSonyPeDikhega #SonySportsNetwork pic.twitter.com/dcbAFO0Wgu
“We are lucky to have a son like Shanku. He is so humble and respectful to everyone and that is the reason he has come so far. He’s been like this since school. We’ve never had any trouble with him,” says mother K. S. Bijimol, a former 800m runner herself.
Father and coach Murali echoes Bijmol’s view, almost painting a saintly image of Sreeshankar, India’s best long jumper by a distance. “He never shies away from hard work. He never finds excuses or shortcuts. I rarely have to raise my voice at him,” says Murali. But there is one habit of Sreeshankar that does irk coach Mural.
— Athletics Federation of India (@afiindia) August 5, 2022
“He doesn’t like any kind of music during training. He hates it. If I reach out my phone to play something during training he will yell at me,” says Sreeshankar. Music ban during training is an informal rule imposed by Sreeshankar who has followed his parents’ advice for years.
There is a strict “no television after 11” rule that applies to all the members of the family.
He was allowed to join Facebook and use WhatsApp only after he turned 18 and Instagram much later. Sreeshankar has never created a fuss over these restrictions and in fact, believes it has helped him focus better on sports. “My father knows what is best for me,” he says.
Another thing his father firmly believes is in prioritising studies. Sreeshankar, despite his busy schedule, has not let his academic scores go down. He carries his study materials wherever he goes to compete. Murali proudly lists out his scores in 10th and 12th grade, all above the 95% mark.
At the engineering entrance test, he stood second in his state on sports quota and cleared it on pure merit. His NEET scores would have earned him a medical seat in any premier college in Kerala. But Sreeshankar had other plans and chose to take up a BSc Maths instead.
“Many of my friends who were in athletics with me are jobless now. He has to focus on his studies as well to ensure a secure future. This is how it works in India,” Murali says.
— Olympic Khel (@OlympicKhel) August 5, 2022
Apart from being an ideal son, sister Sreeparvathy says Sreeshankar is an annoying but very caring elder brother. “He never fights with anyone, at home or outside, apart from me. We just have silly sibling arguments but he is very nice to me,” says Sreeparvathy who moved to Trivandrum earlier this year to pursue medicine.
Sreeshankar, even before making CWG victory, has a sizable fan following that includes several of Sreeparvathy’s medical college mates. “We watch all of his events together. He calls me on video sometimes and says hello to my friends as well. Because of him, I am getting popular,” she says.
When Sreeshankar does find some time off between competitions, he likes to “party” with friends. “We just meet and have some snacks and fruit juice. Some of my friends do drink and smoke but they never call me for such gatherings because they know I won’t come. Even when I organise a party there is absolutely no alcohol. Never,” says Sreeshankar elaborately explaining the meaning of a party in his dictionary.