Tejaswin Shankar has been away from home for quite some time now. The lockdowns owing to coronavirus across the globe has changed lives for everyone, including the national high jump record holder.
Studying accounting and finance at Kansas State University, on an athletics scholarship, Tejaswin Shankar has seen the Covid-19 pandemic and then the death of Geroge Floyd turn his training schedule upside down.
Even though in the protests and concurrent violence around the 'Black Live Matter' movement has 't had much affected life in Kasnas, Tejaswin is glad that at least he can train, to some extent.
Tejaswin feels that racism isn't a simple 'black and white problem' and that Indians need to re-evaluate themselves. Even though he himself has not yet encountered discrimination in the United States, he feels as an athlete he needs to take a stand.
The high jumper is focusing his energies on booking a spot at the Tokyo Olympics and feels the extra year will help him prepare.
How have you been holding up, given it has been difficult for you to train? Firstly the coronavirus, then the protests against police brutality?
The one thing that has always kept me motivated here is the fact that I was able to train. If I wasn’t able to train then none of these things would’ve mattered. The lockdown here was not as strict as in India so I was able to carry on with the training. Though I wasn’t able to high jump because I didn’t have access to the training field but I was able to lift, modify my training. I was able to get out of my house that was the most important part for me and every day I was just looking forward to the training the next day. My semester got done in May and after that, I have some time off and now summer classes have started up again, so I think that is also another thing we underestimate the studies and education, even if we don’t look at it as something that helps it can be seen as a distraction. This way academics has also helped me distract myself from all the things that are happening around and just get into a routine. Generally, the problem we face is when we are out of the routine things to become easy for you. Quarantine has completely changed my routine but then the new routine I found is a lot easier for me and I am able to carry myself and be motivated.
Have you personally been subjected to racism while living in America?
Honestly, to be fair I have never faced any of these comments or jibes but at the same time, it doesn’t mean we shouldn't stand up for someone else who is facing all those things. For me, it has always been important to stand up for others who are going through such torture. I think such matters are real or else people would’ve not been protesting or sleeping on the roads and not eating. It is a legitimate movement and as an Indian, I think we just overlook the fact and feel it is a black or white thing but at the same time, we don’t realize that racism has different faces.
How have you been managing to keep in shape, as there are no competitions nor there are any athletic meets...
In terms of preparation I mean there’s a lot of uncertainty about everything in sports. Generally, when your training has a training plan like a general prep phase where you work on a general physicality and improve your endurance strength and then you do special prep that’s where techs, you start running around in circles, curve runs, and so on for the high jumps. When you are in the actual competition phase, you do jump practice and at this point, there is no phase as you don’t know when there will be a competition and that’s how you base your training off. So it is hard at certain points for me to find the motivation to train but at the same time if ill stop training now then it will become harder to come back in shape that is why I am still training. It is really a tough phase. We are also uncertain about the Olympics even tho it is confirmed that it will happen in July 2021 but I have my eyes set on what is coming up next and training to be prepared.
How did you take the Olympics being pushed back? You hadn't managed to clear the qualifying mark, will the postponement help you book a spot?
Yes, the postponement didn't affect me because I was not qualified in the games and by the time I will be one year older and probably more mature. I will have more time to train under my belt. I should be more ready ideally and I think I will be a lot more ready than I was this year. I was really confident this year if the Olympic had happened I would’ve really jumped higher but then this coronavirus outbreak brought everything on halt. I do not hope about anything at this point but I know one thing I have to be flexible and keep training and prepare myself and not to worry about the outcome and be confident enough.