Tejaswin Shankar, the India national record-holder in high jump who took part at the recently concluded 2020 Tokyo Games, shares a close bond with India’s first ever individual Olympic gold medallist in athletics Neeraj Chopra. And when his ‘brother’ created history be locking the gold in men’s javelin throw on Saturday, Tewaswin celebrated by doing 20 push-ups.
“The moment Neeraj sealed the gold, I had a rush of adrenaline and, believe it or not, I went down on the floor and did 20 push-ups. I was so pumped up that Paris 2024 was already running in my mind,” Tejaswin wrote in a column for The Indian Express.
Tejaswin’s friendship with Neeraj goes a long way back, long before the latter became a national sensation when he set the world junior record in javelin throw at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championship, clinching the gold medal.
“I met Neeraj for the first time in a dope-testing room back in 2015 and had no idea who he was. I was like, ‘who is this guy with long hair?'” Tejaswin wrote.
“We spoke and later exchanged numbers. Our real bonding happened during the 2016 South Asian Games. We both were among the youngest athletes and I was feeling a bit out of place as I didn’t have any friends. I spoke to Neeraj and he told me that I belong here and like other athletes, I too have met the qualification standard to be there,” he added.
Tejaswin admires Neeraj for his single-minded approach towards improving himself, revealing how one incident in 2016 that left him mighty impressed.
“In 2016 after his Junior World Championship gold medal, I was taking a walk with Neeraj at the JSW facilities in Bellary. I asked him what he’s done with all the prize money or if he’s secured a government job,” Tejaswin wrote.
“He didn’t seem interested in the conversation at all and was extending his arm and doing this weird throw action. I asked him, “What are you doing? Why aren’t you responding?” He replied, “You know, I can easily add another two metres if I get my block (the extension of his left leg at the point of release) right. I realised that day that money and recognition don’t matter to him. He had his eyes set on just improving himself. From that day, he became a person I looked up to,” he added.
On a lighter note, Tejaswin, 22, says that there’s at least one area where Neeraj has sought his help and that is something the javelin thrower owes him.
“But I think he owes me something. After his World junior medal, his Instagram got flooded with messages, especially from women. Although he wasn’t interested in any of them, for courtesy’s sake, he asked me to reply to them. He told me what he wanted me to write in Hindi and I would do the rest,” Tejaswin wrote.