BIRMINGHAM: “I have to win a medal now. I don’t have an option.” That was Tejaswin Shankar last Saturday while getting off the Delhi-Dubai-Birmingham flight and heading to the athletes’ village. The words seemed rushed but carried a quiet conviction.
On Wednesday, barely a heartbeat later, there was a joyous vibe to the 23-year-old. Under darkening skies at the Alexander Stadium, he was huddling in celebration with New Zealander Hamish Kerr and Brandon Starc, the gangling Oz cricketer Mitchell’s much-smaller younger brother. The Indian had cleared 2. 22m – the leap that got him a bronze medal. It was a telling statement to all the naysayers and officious detractors in Indian sport’s administrative offices.

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Tejaswin had qualified for the Games by achieving the high-jump qualification standard at a meet in the US.
However, the Athletics Federation of India did not pencil him in for Birmingham.

Reason: Tejaswin had not shown up at the Chennai qualifiers a month or so ago. The federation had mandated that only athletes who competed in inter-state meets in the country would be eligible for the CWG.
The matter reached a Delhi court with the ruling in the athlete’s favour.

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The remarkable achievement by Tejaswin Shankar makes one ask why he was not part of the original squad. One also wonders if the colour of the medal would have been different if he had got more time to acclimatize in Birmingham rather than reaching there at the last minute because of the legal battles he had to fight to become part of the Indian contingent.

‘Emotional readiness is of paramount importance’
But when all seemed settled, the CWG organisers could not add him in as the deadline had passed. On June 22, his entry was finally approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation.

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At the jump pit, the trans-Tasman rivals might have shared the bigger spoils between them with an identical 2.25m, but that didn’t matter. For, if there ever was a knock-punch in high jumping, it was what Tejaswin delivered with his terrific, mad-rush bronze here.

“There’s a juncture where your emotional readiness is of paramount importance. Physical peak is different from emotional peak. It’s ifs and buts, but had I been at my emotional peak, I would have liked to go for the gold,” he would say later. It’s clear who the message was intended for.
It was not like this last month. That spring in Tejaswin’s step, a second nature for the tall man and his routine, was in danger of being taken away. He was in complete dilemma whether he would be able to participate or not: going one moment, sitting out the next.

Tejaswin’s personal best is 2.29m (a national record) and he felt he could’ve gone better than the top two if mentally he wasn’t so hassled before the event. But something tells us, Tejaswin was secretly enjoying the rush, relishing the thrill of the chase. “If I say in one sentence, had I not got a medal here then it wouldn’t have fulfilled my own expectation,” he told this correspondent later.





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