While the Indian contingent, dressed in their elegant formal attires, were taking in the CWG opening ceremony in Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, a squad member, sporting a comfortable lungi and stretched on his sofa back home in Delhi, was watching the proceedings on television.
“My mom joked that she fears I would sit and watch the rest of the Games with them at home. ‘Lag heen nahi raha ki CWG chal raha hai, tum yahan lungi pehenke bhete ho,’ she told me (It doesn’t feel like the CWG is on when I see you sitting here in your lungi’,” says high jumper Tejaswin Shankar who was cleared to participate at the CWG just a week back.
High jumper Tejaswin Shankar, whose entry was accepted after a month-long anxious wait that had more plot twists and turns than a daily soap, had still not received his until Friday. After initially being denied a spot in the squad by the Athletics Federation of India despite achieving their qualifying mark, he was included in the team after a Delhi court direction, only to be told a couple of days later by the Indian Olympic Association that the organisers did not accept his entry.
Tejaswin came to the conclusion that his dream to participate in the megaevent was all but over. He booked a flight from the US, where has been studying and training since 2017, and landed in Delhi on the of 18th July only to realise that there was another twist in his story. On June 22, the IOA informed Tejaswin that the organisers had accepted his entry with less than a week to go.
The following week Tejaswin had to race against time to complete his visa, biometrics and other formalities. While most athletes spend the last few weeks fine-tuning their preparation, Tejaswin was running around completing his formalities. He visited the Sports Authority of India office twice, the AFI’s once and IOA a couple of times in the last week to ensure his process is completed on top priority.
“While the IOA and AFI have been very supportive in the last few days it could have been easier for me if all this selection issue had not taken place,” says Tejaswin. The 2022 NCAA champion, who is the only Indian jumper at this year’s CWG, feels the disturbances in the last month have not affected his physical fitness, but admits they have drained him mentally.
“At this level, competition happens at the mental level. If you ask me about my fitness and preparedness for the event, I would say I am in very good shape,” he says. In the last month, Tejaswin and his family have been through a lot of emotional turmoil. The 23-year-old hasn’t slept properly in weeks with so much commotion around his selection.
“For him to just reach the event venue on time itself is like a competition,” says mother Lakshmi.
Despite the uncertainty, Tejaswin never gave up training. Under the guidance of his school coach Sunil Kumar, he continued his training regime designed by the Kansas State University Coach Cliff Rovelto at Delhi stadiums. “It was my biggest challenge and biggest escape,” he says on motivating himself to train under such circumstances. “I needed to train to keep myself sane. When I am on the ground I focus entirely on my training and let no distractions enter my mind. I get into a meditative state.”
With his visa and tickets finally arriving on Friday, a day after the opening ceremony, he will take an early morning flight via Dubai to Birmingham that will take more than 12 hours. He should reach the Games village on Sunday and be competition ready by Tuesday for his qualification round. “There is no point in talking about jet lag and acclimatisation cause I don’t have an option. I will just go out there and perform,” he says.
On Friday there was a mini celebration at the Shakar household to make up for missing out on the athletes’ parade. The Delhi athlete took a generous helping of ghevar, his favourite sweet. Tejaswin wouldn’t have hesitated to wear the official attire and walk down his hall for some social media content only if he had received them on time. “I was told my official opening ceremony attire is still not ready and that I can take it after the CWG get over,” says Tejaswin