Tejaswin Shankar, national high jump champion, gets 4-year scholarship in US | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Tejaswin Shankar, national high jump champion, gets 4-year scholarship in US

An unusual journey - from being a pace bowler to winning an athletics scholarship to Kansas University in the US

other sports Updated: Sep 26, 2017 12:03 IST
Navneet Singh
Navneet Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tejaswin Shankar will be at the Kansas State University on a four-year scholarship.
Tejaswin Shankar will be at the Kansas State University on a four-year scholarship.(HT Photo)

National high jump record holder Tejaswin Shankar has got a four-year athletics scholarship in Kansas State University. Shankar, 19, has got a full scholarship and will be pursuing a degree in business administration while trying to build on his highly promising high jump career.

The teenager from Delhi will also be able to participate in the highly competitive NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) meets in the US in the next four years. ‘’It has been four weeks (since I) have been at the university campus. (My) main focus right now is to get stronger and fitter for the upcoming season; (the) competition starts November. Emphasis from November will be more on specific jumping techniques,’’ he said.

“All training sessions are closely monitored and later examined.”

Tejaswin will be the third Indian to compete in the circuit, the breeding ground for many US track and field Olympians.

Triple jumper Mohinder Singh Gill, who was a top competitor in the 1970s, and current discus thrower Vikas Gowda, were the other two to compete in the NCAA.

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Tejaswin, who boasts of a personal best of 2.26m, is confident his move to the US will help polish his skills, with the latest coaching methods available.

“My immediate goal is to break 2.30m. The university has a good infrastructure and coaching system and it will help me to raise the bar,” he says. “The training has been going on expected lines. I hope the 2018 season will be terrific.”

Shankar’s personal best is 2.26m, a national record set last year in the junior national meet at Coimbatore.

Unlike in India where he was struggling to find an expert, he will be in safe hands in Kansas University as the sports department is run by track and field expert Cliff Rovelto, who, among others, guided Erik Kynard to a high jump silver medal in the 2012 London Games.

From training in the school sandpit to following a methodical schedule, it has been an unusual journey for Shankar, whose first love was cricket.

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His parents wanted him to follow cricket. There were two reasons. Firstly, Sardar Patel Vidyalaya in central Delhi had good facilities for the game. And it always pays to become a cricketer in India.

The tall school boy, who stood at 6 foot 4 inches, was a pace bowler in the making. But he often followed a fitness programme to build strength. However, his fitness regimen slowly drew him to athletics, particularly high jump.

In 2013, he started to compete at school level and found instant success.

It was the turning point. For the next three years he made rapid progress—raising the bar to 2.26m on his way to winning gold in U-18 boys at the 2016 junior national meet at Coimbatore. He broke Harishankar Roy’s decade-old senior national mark of 2.25m.

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After winning silver in the 2016 SAF Games at Guwahati in February, he missed the flight to the World junior championship in Poland -- where javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra set a junior world record of 86.48m -- due to injury.

But after a lay-off, he came back strongly to win the senior level title at Lucknow.

Last year, Shankar also went to the US on a short training stint, and it proved a revealing experience. The approach to training was quite different from that in India. “It was a blend of sprinting, strength training and polishing skills,” he says.

This year he also missed the July 6-9 Asian Athletics Championships at Bhubaneswar due to board examinations.

That’s all in the past. “Hopefully, things should go as planned, I will be among the best in the business,” he says.