EXCLUSIVE: How Tejaswin Shankar battled time to win India’s historic CWG medal

There is a funny picture of Tejaswin Shankar that broke the internet as soon as he clinched India’s first-ever medal in high jump in the Commonwealth Games history on Wednesday. It’s of him lying on his living room sofa at home wearing a lungi. The picture is from a week ago when Tejaswin didn’t even know if he would make it to the Commonwealth Games 2022 or not. Despite having jumped the CWG qualifying mark, Tejaswin was denied a place in the Indian Track and Field contingent because he did not compete at the National Inter-State athletics meet in June, which was to be a Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) selection event. Instead, Tejaswin was competing at NCAA championships in USA for Kansas State University where he studies.

He moved High Court and won the case against AFI after which he was back in the mix. But then came another twist as Commonwealth Games organisers refused to allow Tejaswin to take part as the athlete he was replacing was not from the same discipline. 

Amid all this chaos, Tejaswin kept his humour alive, joking constantly on his own fate. The picture of him watching TV while wearing a lungi was one such take on all the happenings in his life in that moment. The final twist came finally as with only one day remaining for Games to begin, he got the green signal from CWG and within a week, he raced against time to make it to Birmingham. And on Day 6 of the Games, he even went on to win a historic medal

“I had the thought (of not playing CWG for no fault of his) in my head for a lot of days. I did not know four or five days ago whether I will make it. But once I got here. I knew what I wanted to do. But those thought came running in my mind. After I had clarity, things were smooth. Within one week, I was able to get my tickets, my visa, my biometrics was processed. Everything happened at a rapid pace. At that point, I had no reason to believe I was not going,” said Tejaswin. 

As soon as he cleared his first jump of 2.19m, the social media joked ‘now we can finally believe Tejaswin is participating in CWG’. That’s the nature of social media, it makes even the worst experience for someone else, a memorable moment for itself. Fans had fun but the question needs to be underlined again. Why would a state federation not allow its best athlete to compete at the highest level? However, Tejaswin does not want to ponder much on it. Now that he has medalled finally at CWG. 

He says, “The moment I landed in Birmingham. The one thought that came to me was okay, everything has happened. I am in Birmingham. Now what? The best part was that when I walked into the village, I did not feel I did not belong here. I did not feel there was anything that had happened back home. If we have something going into our house, we want to keep it in there and when representing your country, we should have one goal of winning medal. Everyone has been with me. That is what my mindset was. My teammates made things very easy for me.”

The 23-year-old high jumper from Delhi does not want to look in the past too much now. He says that with the medal in his hand, he cannot ask for anything else. He said that as soon as he landed in UK, he was welcomed by the Track and Field contingent and no one spoke ill of him or behaved in a way that was not welcoming. The fact that they were there for the medal and nothing else, united everyone.  

Mauka mila aane ka woh important hai. This is medal for country. Whatever happened, happened, happy we could win a medal. My experience was fine. I did not face any problem after coming here. Aur ek athlete kya maang sakta hai,” he signs off. 

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