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Omitted from the CWG squad, high jumper Tejaswin takes AFI to court

Tejaswin Shankar is the only Indian to meet the AFI-set qualifying standard of 2.27 metres for men.

Tejsaswin, representing the Kansan State University, won the high jump NCAA championship last week with a best jump of 2.27m at Eugene, Oregon where the upcoming World Championships will be held.

Just days after the Athletics Federation (AFI) of India left out Tejaswin Shankar from their 2022 Commonwealth Games squad, despite him being the only high jumper to achieve the qualifying standard of 2.27m, the athlete has knocked on the doors of the Delhi High Court by filing a writ petition.

The writ petition filed on Monday, which has been listed for hearing today, calls Tejaswin’s exclusion “arbitrary” and also states that the 23-year-old is a medal contender at the CWG as “only two high jumpers (Hamish Kerr and Django Lovett ) who will prospectively be competing at the CWG 2022 have a better jump than him this year.”

Tejsaswin, representing the Kansan State University, won the high jump NCAA championship last week with a best jump of 2.27m at Eugene, Oregon where the upcoming World Championships will be held.

“A potential medal contender for the CWG Games has been arbitrarily excluded, despite meeting the eligibility mark set by the AFI. The decision is further illegal as Tejaswin ought to have been granted the exemption he sought as an elite athlete — in parity with the 3 others (Seema Punia, Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable) athletes who were given exemption from the inter-state competition on similar grounds. The current national record holder is being arbitrarily excluded at the whims of AFI and this action is absolutely against national interest,” advocate Malak Bhatt, who will be representing Tejaswin, told this paper.

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In its 37-member squad for the Commonwealth Games, announced last week, the AFI had omitted notably Tejaswin Shankar and long jumper Jeswin Aldrin who has achieved the qualifying guidelines (8 metres) and has the second-best jump by an Indian this season.

Post the initial snub Tejaswin wrote to the federation seeking a trial in California where the India team is likely to hold a camp ahead of the World Championships in Oregon. The federation was quick to respond saying that selection “was final” and both Tejsaswin and Jeswin would not be provided with a trial.

On the day of the squad announcement, the AFI president said Tejaswin had never sought an exemption for the Inter-State Meet unlike Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Seema Punia.

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“It was clearly mentioned on the website this was the last event where one could try to register the qualification standard for the CWG and Worlds. Tejaswin did not want to be selected. Mr Shankar did not ask to be exempted from the Inter-State Championships. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told reporters after announcing the team on Thursday.

But the petition states that Tejaswin approached the chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair in February seeking exemption from the Interstate meet as it clashed with the NCAA championships in the US. “Mr Radhakrishnan had on 11.06.2022 intimated the Petitioner via WhatsApp that he would be considered by the Selection Committee based on his 2.27m jump at the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championship 2022, and repeatedly inquired about the status of the Petitioner’s visa for the CWG 2022,” the petition, a copy of which is in possession of The Indian Express, stated.

At the inter-state meet, the best jump was 2.24m recorded by Anil Kushare. AFI decided to send no entries for high jump at the Commonwealth Games.

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“I am extremely hopeful that the federation gives me one opportunity. I have already achieved the mark but I am ready to jump in front of them. The reason I was able to achieve the qualification mark in the first place was that I took part against a top field here. Even though I was participating here in the US my heart was just thinking about the CWG qualification,” Tejaswin had told this paper when the squad was announced.

The petition also mentions how multiple times Commonwealth Games medallist Seema Punia was included in the squad, subject to performance in trials, despite not achieving the qualifying mark yet.

“Punia was included in the squad despite not having met the qualification standard in any competition this season (she has a best this season of 55.97m as against the qualification standard of 58m). Despite this, Ms Punia has been allowed in the team provided she secures the qualification standard at California,” the petition reads.

First published on: 22-06-2022 at 12:29:36 am
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