Before August 3, no Indian track and field athlete could ever jump the bar set high enough to bag a podium-finish at CWG. Shankar, with his effort of 2.22m at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Wednesday, rewrote that piece of history with a bronze medal around his neck.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for him until a month or so ago, when he had to go to court after his name didn’t feature in the list of athletes included in India’s Commonwealth Games contingent.
An NCAA athlete and student of Kansas University, Shankar won the high-jump title there in June this year with a jump of 2.27m and with that achieved the qualification standard for CWG. However, he didn’t find his name in the list of Indian contingent. The reason was that he missed competing in the Senior Inter-State Athletics Championships in India.
But the Delhi High Court ruled in Shankar’s favour after a lot of drama and less than a week before the competition, the Indian Olympic Association gave the green signal and his entry was approved, though he had to still watch the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham Games from his couch at home.
Looking ahead to his professional career both on and off the field, Shankar wants to put the past behind him.
He revealed those plans and much more in a media interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India and JSW Sports for a select group of journalists, to which TimesofIndia.com was also invited.
Congratulations!Tejaswin Shankar opened INDIAN athletics team’s medal account with a bronze in the men’s high jump… https://t.co/8VchwnfXii
— Narayan Chandra Roy (@Narayan80004259) 1659576956000
Feelings after finally reaching Birmingham for the CWG…
After I came here, I didn’t have to face any problems. It was a family atmosphere. It was a fluid conversation with everyone. No one brought up the past in those conversations…Everybody was there to cheer for me at the stadium. What more can an athlete ask for? And I was able to do my best at the competition.
Did you get a rough deal?
I have always been an advocate of – if the policy applies to everybody, then everyone has to abide by it…My biggest problem was I was competing at the Collegiate circuit (in the US), and I was a student there. I can’t go anywhere to compete just like that…I wanted to represent the country and play the Nationals but I had to go to school. So I had to cut the corners. But now my school has finished, so hopefully we have now moved forward.
Do you think you missed out on achieving your personal best?
In championship meets, it’s less about personal best and more about medals. I might be wrong, but weather and situations play a big role, a lot of other events were going on (simultaneously at the time of high-jump final in Birmingham), so there was (a lot of) stopping and starting…Usually, I have those regrets, that I could have jumped higher, but not here, because I was not certain a few days ago about being here.
Excellent performance by Tejaswin Shankar in winning the bronze medal. Congratulations on becoming the first Indian… https://t.co/q9yzNtKOPl
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) 1659583603000
Is decathlon on the cards?
I have made up my mind that I want to compete in decathlon at the Asian Games. Even if I don’t, I want to continue training for decathlon. Improvised training in decathlon helped me a lot in high jump but given the tendinitis in my knees, I have been unable to jump as high as I would like.
The 2:30m mark…
The 2:30m barrier has been on my mind since I jumped 2:29m in 2018 (national record). For some reason it is eluding me. But I want to broaden my horizon and look at decathlon. At the moment, I want to spend time with my family after a roller-coaster of a month that we have had.
Has your good friend Neeraj Chopra called yet to congratulate you?
I haven’t had a chance to have a conversation with him, but his uncle did give me a call. It was a missed call. But I haven’t had a chance to call back…We all look up to Neeraj Chopra as an athlete and as a human being.
And I couldn’t be happier to see my friend and brother @TejaswinShankar win India a first Track & Field medal in th… https://t.co/5mXP2I1jRP
— Neeraj Chopra (@Neeraj_chopra1) 1659606852000
What’s in store next?
This medal is a stepping stone and probably the first feather in my cap. I have an offer from Deloitte in Kansas City as an accountant. Will work with them starting September. That’s the plan. The main goal would be to go back to the US, start my work experience, work life and plan a calendar for the next year and start competing, targeting the Asian Games and the World Championships.