A Virender Sehwag fan by his own admission, national record holder high jumper Tejaswin Shankar wanted to be a cricketer and play in the lucrative Indian Premier League but ended up in athletics, to now become one of the fast rising track and field stars of the country.
The 19-year-old Delhi athlete today shattered his own national record of 2.26m while winning gold with an effort of 2.28m to book a Commonwealth Games berth during the Federation Cup National Senior Athletics Championships at the NIS Patiala here.
During his school days, Shankar wanted to be a cricketer and compete at the highest level. But cricket’s loss could prove to be athletic’s gain as he is on the cusp of reaching world class level just like javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra.
After winning the men’s high jump event today, Shankar tried for 2.31m but could not go over the height narrowly. The Rio Olympics bronze medal winning mark is 2.33m.
“Cricket is the most followed sport in the country and my family keenly follows the game. Just like any other children, I also wanted to be a cricketer and played the game at the school. One day I wanted to play in the IPL,” Shankar said after his event today.
“But somehow I could not reach to that level in cricket which would take me far. So I made the shift to athletics and I am happy.”
Asked who is his sporting idol, Shankar did not think much and straightway mentioned former Delhi and India opening batsman Virender Sehwag.
“It is Virender Sehwag. I like his attitude while playing his cricket. He does not take pressure and if he wants to hit a ball he does not think about the situation or the occasion. It did not matter to him if it was a World Cup match or not, he would just play his shots,” Shankar said about Sehwag.
“I also want to have that attitude and mentality like Sehwag. Under pressure situations, I wanted to be free. But today, I was a bit excited while going for the 2.31m. It was a world class height and I could have cleared it in my first of the three attempts. I missed it narrowly. But it is all right. I hope I will cross this height soon,” said Shankar, who recently cleared 2.28m in the Big 12 Athletics Championships at Ames in Iowa.
Shankar, who stands at 6 feet and four inches, went to Delhi’s highly sought-after school, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and is currently training at the Kansas State University in the United States where he is doing a four-year undergraduate programme.
While studying for a degree in business administration, Shankar has also been participating in the Division 1 — the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Shankar, a resident of Saket in South Delhi, came to national limelight when he broke Hari Shankar Roy’s long standing national record by clearing 2.26m at the junior national championships in Coimbatore in 2016. He was just 17 years then.
He said he will go back to the US and appear for examinations there before flying for Gold Coast.
“This is an important year for me. After the CWG, there will be US Collegiate events and then the Asian Games also. If I get invitation for Diamond League series also, it will be good for me. But for now my immediate target is to win a medal in the Commonwealth Games,” Shankar said.
Another athlete, Siddharth Yadav of Haryana, who won the silver, also did a 2.25m, which is the AFI qualifying mark for the CWG.
“It is good if two athletes are taking part in the CWG and hopefully win medals. In javelin, India has 3-4 athletes who can throw beyond 80m. It is good if there are two-three high jumper who can do 2.25m,” he said.