Tejaswin Shankar exuded relief after winning India's first-ever high-jump medal at the CWG 2022, a historic bronze medal. The man, who almost didn't make it to Birmingham, was content just to be able to return with a medal, which he said belonged to the nation via him rather than to himself.
When discussing his legal struggle with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), which initially opted not to send him to the CWG despite earning a qualifying mark because he had skipped an inter-state competition to attend the NCAA championship in the USA, Shankar was courteous in his remarks to News18.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a journey to be able to get here. I wouldn’t say there are any hard feelings. But at the end of the day, we all, be it Athletics Federation or SAI or the athlete, the only thing one is concerned about is to maximize the medal tally for the country."
“Everybody has their own way of doing it and yes there might be a difference of opinion and yes, in this case, there was. But ultimately I was given the opportunity and I was able to make the most of it. At that point, the only thing I could have done was bring a medal and add to the tally. And the fact that I did that, I am just grateful,” Shankar said.
“Woh kehte hai der aaye durust aaye.”
“It (the medal) just means the whole world to me and my family. Even during the opening ceremony, I was sitting in my house. So, my mother said I really don’t think you are going to go."
“And I was like please mom please don’t say all these things. ‘Aise apshagun mat bolo, achaa bolo.”
“Then next day we found out that we were going so everything happened so fast we never really had the time to process or had the time to get excited about the possibility of competing in the commonwealth games against all these stalwart athletes."
“So for me, it was just pick up your bag and go moment. It just didn’t kick in."
“I had a WhatsApp call with the entire family post medal and everybody was so excited. My grandmother was up watching,” he further said.
Shankar said he is not resentful of the experience, but he did have to swiftly acclimate and adjust to the circumstances.
“So, as an athlete, I feel one thing we all like is certainty and we try and build our training regimen around that. And in my case, that was the one thing I didn’t have. I wasn’t sure what I was training for,” he said.
“But the other thing we as athletes always look for is to try and be adaptable and try and find some sort of a way to tackle all situations. And that’s what I think I was able to bank on. Even though things didn’t happen the way I wanted them to happen, I feel through the adversity I was able to find a way to actually make my training regimen, make things happen and not be picky about stuff, and actually go through my stuff by being more adaptive to my surrounding."
“Before I landed in Birmingham, there were lots of ifs and buts and whether I will be here or not. Once I landed I just knew that we just had one objective that is to bring the medal for the country,” he said.
“The medal is not mine. The medal is for the country. It’s just a medal through me.”
Now that he has permanently inscribed his name in history books, Shankar downplays his accomplishment.
“That’s okay. I mean that’s for you guys to figure out. I mean for me I just go there, compete and come back. I don’t look back at what I did and how many cms or mms. For me, it’s just like I did my best on that day. Since that day I haven’t even looked at videos of my jump because I just feel nervous and anxious. I just don’t want to go back and live that moment again. If I go back to competition videos, I’ll go like ‘oh I could have done this, I could have done that."
“I don’t want any regrets about my performance. So for me, the competition part is over now. I just want to celebrate with my family and hang out with my friends,” Shankar added.
Shankar believes that despite having to settle for bronze and falling short of his career best this season, he did a good job of analysing the circumstances, which he anticipated would lead to a low-jumping competition.
“Being an outdoor sport, I felt that after 7-8 PM, Birmingham starts to get a bit chilly. Our final was at 7 PM. So I knew that I had to make sure that I didn’t have any misses because as it got colder in the evening, it will be difficult for everybody."
“So, the guys who finished first and second with 2.25m, those guys have jumped 2.36m and 2.37m. So they are extremely capable of jumping higher. And I too am capable of jumping way higher. But that given day, it was a bit chilly and so it was affecting everybody,” Shankar concluded.