Push harder for better results – It’s almost accepted wisdom in sport and other walks of life. But long jumper Jeswin Aldrin was given a slightly different brief by his Cuban coach Yoandri Betanzos ahead of the Throws and Jumps Nationals where he shattered the previous national mark of 8.36m with a massive effort of 8.42m.
Just a week before the competition, Jeswin and his team decided to tweak his run-up, reducing the number of strides to 18 from the earlier 20. That meant slightly less speed but a lot more control.
“He was complaining about getting very stiff during takeoff because of the speed of the run-up. So we decided to change the approach. It may not be as fast as before but it’s much smoother. I also tell him not to take any pressure during competitions. If practice is good, competition will be easy,” says Betanzos, who has been coaching Jeswin for over a year now.
What makes Betanzos even happier with Thursday’s performance was Jeswin’s consistency as all his three jumps were above the 8m mark – 8.05, 8.26 and 8.42m. The Tamil Nadu athlete did not go for the remaining jumps he was allowed. “I’m saving my best jumps for the World Championships,” he says.
21-year-old Jeswin Aldrin breaks the long jump national record with a massive leap of 8.42m at the Jumps and Throws Nationals. The previous record of 8.36m was held by Sreeshankar Murali.@IExpressSports pic.twitter.com/BiWqS2EeQO
— Andrew (@AndrewAmsan) March 2, 2023
Reducing the number of strides meant the 21-year-old would have to get into a moving stance (be in a running motion before he starts the stride count) to generate the momentum needed for his jump. Jeswin, who also has a wind-aided jump of 8.37m under his name, echoed his coach’s views on the new run-up.
“Earlier, I always thought about running faster and jumping farther. But now I don’t take that pressure now. It is about running with a good rhythm,” says Jeswin.
His record-breaking jump, which was better than the Tokyo Olympics gold effort, came in his third attempt at the training ground at JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sport facilities in Vijaynagar. This was Jeswin’s first outdoor competition of the season after winning silver at the Asian Indoors in Kazakhstan last month. Jeswin’s jump took him to the fifth spot in the Asian all-time list where the next Indian Sreeshankar Murali, whose record he broke on Thursday, sits in ninth place. Sreeshankar did not compete in the Bellary meet.
It may seem like the massive jump has come out of the blue but Jeswin and his camp knew it was only a matter of time. He had consistently landed 8.35m-plus jumps during practice at the same venue. “We always knew that an 8.40m jump was there and it came today. I had no pressure because I have landed those big jumps during almost all our practice sessions here,” says Jeswin, who is planning to leave for Cuba in a week for a training programme.
Last year was a rollercoaster ride for Jeswin, who seemed primed for a solid season after hitting a wind-assisted 8.37m and legal 8.26m jump at the Federation Cup in April. But the youngster failed to maintain the tempo and generally lacked consistency. This year, Jeswin doesn’t want to repeat the same mistake.
“I was struggling to give a consistent performance last year. This year my focus is on landing 8.20m-plus jumps in all meets rather than hitting one big jump,” says Jeswin.
After making a lukewarm senior debut at the 2021 World Championships where he failed to reach the finals, Jeswin took some time off to recalibrate. Overseas training trips to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and France, he feels, helped him become a mature athlete.
“We saw how other professionals train and just learnt a lot by observing,” he says.
Bala Chaitanya, assistant athletics coach at IIS, has seen Jeswin arrive at the facilities as a shy teenager. Although still a work in progress, coach Bala is immensely happy with his progress.
“We had planned his progressions. When he had come, he was very raw and the then coach Antony Yaich worked on him, adopting the double hitch-kick technique. He came as a junior athlete and is now a professional. But the real work begins now.”