Tejaswin Shankar qualifies for Asian Games, jumper Akhilesh suffers injury - Hindustan Times
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Tejaswin Shankar qualifies for Asian Games, jumper Akhilesh suffers injury

ByAvishek Roy, Bhubaneswar
Jun 18, 2023 08:21 AM IST

India’s top high jumper wins the decathlon at the inter-state athletics meet braving heat and humidity; Karnataka triple jumper breaks his leg on the runway

After competing in nine disciplines over two days in extreme heat and humid conditions, it came down to the final 1500m for Tejaswin Shankar to breach the Asian Games qualifying mark (7500 points) at the inter-state athletics meet on Saturday.

Tejaswin Shankar(Instagram)
Tejaswin Shankar(Instagram)

Shankar, by his own admission, was behind on the first day even in events in which he does better (100m, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m). So, he pushed harder in throws and pole vault, where he usually lagged behind. As per his calculation, he needed to clock under 4min, 40secs in 1500m to achieve the standard. He did 4min, 38.49secs.

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“I just want to thank all the participants because they pushed me. I would not have been able to complete the race without them. Most importantly, I had to run below 4:40 to get the standard. Everyone came together and said we will help. One athlete was with me throughout the race to push me. So, it’s a victory for each one of them,” Shankar said.

The 24-year-old was competing in India after a long time. The high jumper, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, is back having completed his studies in the US. For two days at the Kalinga Stadium, he was the focus, whether he can qualify in an event that is not popular in India.

Shankar is new to decathlon yet once came close to breaking the national record of 7,658 points, set by Bharatinder Singh in 2011. Shankar logged 7648 points at the Jim Click Shootout competition in Arizona this year. But his selection to the Asian Championships in Pattaya was subject to his performance at the Inter-State meet. On Saturday, he even tweeted that decathletes should be judged by more than just a score because of the “horrendous” heat.

“I am not complaining but that’s a fact -- it is hot and humid. So many people didn’t feel fresh. I know people who decide the schedule even if they can’t do much about it. So, I am not blaming anyone.

“I wanted to break the national record, but after 100m I knew I was running behind, and after the long jump (second event) I had fallen quite behind. I am generally good on Day 1. All events suit me and I score well. That is where I lagged in this meet and it was a new challenge to get points in my weak events – discus, pole vault and javelin.”

A big boost for him was 2.20m in high jump on the first day, his best in decathlon so far. In pole vault, he had national record holder Siva Subramani to guide him. In javelin, he surprised himself by going past 50m (52.32).

“Discus is the hardest, very technical. Pole vault is the most technical and I had Siva to help me make certain adjustments. In javelin, I was expecting 47m-48m, but throwing 52m in the last attempt, I had a cushion coming into 1500m.”

Shankar said he will continue to do high jump as well because that is where he scores most of his points in decathlon.

Besides him, 13 athletes achieved Asian Games qualification marks.

Triple jump injury

There was a major injury on the triple jump runway. Karnataka’s Akhilesh broke his leg (above the ankle) while going for his second attempt. His leg got stuck at take-off and he was sprawled on the turf, howling in pain. He was stretchered off before an ambulance took him to hospital.

Favourite Praveen Chithravel won at 17.07m with CWG medallists Abdulla Aboobacker (16.88) and Eldhose Paul (16.75) were second and third respectively. The AFI’s Asian Games qualifying mark was 16.60m.

National 100m hurdles record holder Jyothi Yarraji won her event in 12.92secs, showing her class with her sixth sub-13sec race of the year. She has already won the 100m.

In high jump, Sarvesh Anil Kushare (2.24m) and Jesse Sandesh (2.24m) qualified. AFI will take a final call on how many athletes to send in each category.

“One athlete per event attaining qualifying standards set by AFI will be selected for the team. In case more than one athlete attains the qualifying standards set by AFI, it is the sole prerogative of the selection committee to include or reject the entry of the second athlete. If deemed tactically or technically necessary, or in cases where (there are) chances/probability of winning more than one medal in the same event, more than one athlete attaining qualifying standard may be selected for the team. The decision of the selection committee will be final in such cases," according to AFI selection policy.

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