Kushare chases Shankar’s national mark, with Sable’s tips
The high jumper, who sees ace steeplechaser and fellow armyman as a mentor, came close to eclipsing Tejaswin Shankar’s mark before settling for a personal best of 2.27m at the National Games title.
Tejaswin Shankar’s high jump national record of 2.29m has stood now for four years. Sarvesh Anil Kushare came close to bettering it at the National Games on Sunday. The Services athlete was a lone figure as he challenged himself, getting the bar to be raised to a new height after the rest of the field was done, at the IIT Grounds in Gandhinagar.
Kushare eventually took gold but had to be content with the meet record and personal best of 2.27m. He had three attempts at 2.30m, but did not manage to do that. Shankar has not competed after winning bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
T Aromal of Kerala came second (2.19) and Chethan Balasubramanya of Services was third (2.17). The old meet record (2.16) was set by Kushare’s coach Jithin Thomas in 2015.
Excitement built up as Kushare cleared 2.23m, 2.25m and 2.27m. As he went for the national record, he was encouraged with thunderous applause by the spectators. He came close in the first attempt and the arena let out a collective sigh.
It was not the first time the 27-year-old was competing against himself. At the Inter-Services meet too, he was the only one to go for the record.
“There has been a lot of talk in the fraternity that an Indian needs to cross 2.30m now and I want to do that,” said Kushare. “The weather was good, the support from the spectators and my teammates was amazing and I thought I will clear it today. I am a bit disappointed to have just fallen short, but I will have another shot at the Open Nationals.”
Shankar set the national record in 2018. He then moved to the US on a scholarship.
Kushare has been in good form this season, recording consistent jumps. His previous best of 2.26m came in 2019, but after that he had not improved.
“Because of Covid I could not train well and did not progress. It is only this year that I am feeling better again. I wanted to compete at the CWG but the qualifying mark was 2.27. I am happy I have achieved it now.
“But the big target is the national record first. This is my fourth attempt at the record since 2019. I was feeling so good today. Each time I have come closer. With a bit of more strength and speed training, I will be able to go past,” he said.
Kushare’s biggest inspiration remains 3,000m steeplechaser Avinash Sable, with whom Kushare regularly discusses his training plans. While Sable, also an Armyman, is based in Bengaluru, Kushare trains in Pune.
“I look up to Sable and follow him closely. From where he has come and what he has achieved, you have to be really driven to do that. The CWG silver medal was big and it was so good to see an Indian achieving such success. I am always in touch with him and he keeps telling me about training plans and diet.”
The fact they both are from a humble background has seen them connect instantly.
Kushare comes from a farming family. The difficult circumstances during his growing up years strengthened his resolve to excel in sport.
"There was no training facility initially. I played several sports before doing high jump. My coach in school was very passionate about high jump and he had made a makeshift pit. There were no proper shoes. It was only after I came to Army in 2016 that I got better facilities.
"I will improve if I get more international competitions. I got only one in 2019 in South Asian Games (SAG)."
Services coach Jithin Thomas feels Kushare can go up to 2.35m.
"He has the ability. He is very good in competitions. We need to do a bit more work in strength training. I believe he can clear bigger heights."
In swimming, Aneesh S Gowda made a splash, winning the men's 200m freestyle by upstaging Olympian Sajan Prakash. The Karnataka teenager, who won the event at the national championships last month, clocked 1:51.88s, at the Sardar Patel Aquatics Complex in Rajkot.