In early June, seventeen-year-old Tejaswin Shankar suffered a setback at the Asian Junior Championships in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The budding high-jumper injured his groin and finished sixth. The injury forced him to miss the World Junior Championships to be held in Bydgoszcz a month later.
The setback was heart-breaking because Shankar was one of the first athletes to qualify for the world event when he won silver at the South Asian Games in Guwahati — 2.17 metres being his best effort and a new personal best on that February evening.
Shankar didn’t know it then, but the four-month injury lay-off would prove to be beneficial. On Thursday he broke the 12-year-old senior national record of Harishankar Roy (2.25 metres) by registering a best jump of 2.26m at the junior national championship in Coimbatore. He won gold in the Under-18 category.
While Shankar puts his improvement down to extra hours in the gymnasium and on the sprinting track, what he does not say is that he is prodigiously talented — like Roy.
Roy was 18 when he broke Chandrapaul Ratni’s previous mark of 2.17 metres at the Asian All Star Athletics Meet in Singapore. However, Roy could not improve on this height but going by Shankar’s steady progress in high jump, it will be safe to say that he won’t plateau.
It was just last year at the Asian Youth Championships in Doha that Shankar won a bronze. His personal best at that point in time was 2.12 metres — the bronze-medal winning effort. In his maiden senior meet — the South Asian Games — Shankar won a silver.
In his first meet after the four-month injury lay-off, this was the National Open Athletics Champions held at Lucknow in September, he improved his personal best to 2.22 metres — up from 2.17.
“At the Lucknow meet I had attempted 2.26 metres but could not clear the bar. But registering a jump of 2.22 metres after a four-month injury break gave me the confidence that I could break the national record soon,” Shankar says.
“The weight-training and sprinting during the break had helped me become a stronger jumper,” Shankar believes.
He and his coach Sunil Kumar, the physical education teacher at his school — Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Lodhi Road — decided to focus on building strength which in turn helped him to sprint faster. He didn’t practice the high jump during this period.
“Converting horizontal speed into vertical height is the key. Of course you need to be flexible and the technique needs to be good. But if you build core strength and have strong legs you will get faster and it will help you improve,” Shankar says.
The stopwatch reveals the improvement Shankar has made as a sprinter. “Earlier, I would run the 100 metres in 11.6/11.7 seconds. Now I complete it in 11 flat. Earlier I hardly spend any time in the gym but during the break I would do weight training three times a week.”
Shankar is relieved that he could break the national record because the national junior championship is the last event for him this season. “I knew I was within touching distance of the record, so if I didn’t break it now then I would have gone into a break as this is the end of the season. I missed the World Junior championships because of an injury and though I am disappointed about that, breaking the national record has given me joy.”
He is not keen on getting back to his other passion, fast bowling. At 6’4” he is taller than most boys his age and has hurried batsman at the school level. Shankar was keen on becoming a fast bowler when his physical education teacher Kumar adviced him to follow drills used by athletes to build strength. However, Kumar realised that Shankar had the potential to become a high jumper and convinced him to make the switch.
“I still enjoy fast bowling so I will be participating at school-level tournaments. I don’t know how quick I am but I am sure I will be quicker than before because of the strength training I have done. Lets see how the batsmen perform when I bowl.”
Evolution of Indian High Jump Marks
|2.12m||N Annavi||27.04.1984||New Delhi|
|2.16m||N Annavi||10.08.1990||New Delhi|