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Up and Over: Tejaswin Shankar on His New Heptathlon National Record and High Jump Plans for Tokyo Olympics

Tejaswin Shankar (Photo Credit: PTI)

Tejaswin Shankar (Photo Credit: PTI)

Tejaswin Shankar, in an exclusive interview, said even though he has a new national record on his first try at heptathlon, high jump remains his firm in his plans ahead of Tokyo Olympics.

Tejaswin Shankar added another feather to his cap at the young age of just 22. The national high jump record holder, broke the national record in the heptathlon as he won his title at the DeLoss Dodds Invitational in Kansas City on Saturday (January 30). He scored 5,650 points, beating the PJ Vinod's previous best of 5,561, which was set at the 2008 Asian Indoor Championships in Qatar. In the process, he also broke the meet record and got the seventh-best mark in the Kansas State University's history.

"When I came here, the first thing my coach asked me--to see the big picture. He told me it’s important to be an athlete before you can be a high-jumper. It is always good to do multiple things, so that's the whole idea behind doing heptathlon, pentathlon and other multiple events," Tejaswin told News18.com.

"But, ultimately, that doesn't mean that I am not going to high jump. If you look at my scores, the percentage of my scores, more than 50 per cent of my scores comprised of the jumps. So, it's just about testing your strengths," he added when asked about the chances of moving on from high jump.

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When pushed about why heptathlon, a seven-event discipline including 60m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60m hurdles, pole vault and 1,000m, Tejaswin said that it was all about being stronger and fitter.

"Ideally, the first step is to become a strong, and robust athlete to be able to jump high. or I can say to be able to do anything you have to be a good athlete, you can be a good-- sprinter, jumper or a thrower," Tejaswin explained.

"So, it goes like-- 1000m can build endurance which can sustain you in hot conditions, the long jump and hurdles translate well into high jump because the last three steps coming off the hurdle are pretty much the same. And, the shot put is an indicator of raw strength, how strong you are. So, if you are strong and powerful then you are able to jump as well, and you have to be powerful to jump high. Ultimately, it's just a matter of who's stronger and fitter, so that's what combined events are all about. If you are able to do five things together, things become so much easier so that's the whole idea," he added.

Tejaswin has learned a few things while living away from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, studying accounting and finance at Kansas State University, where he is on an athletics scholarship.

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The now double-national-record-holder feels it is imperative for him to get events under his belt with the Summer Games approaching. Tejaswin though is having to make a few hard choices, especially with him not being a professional yet.

"The dates of Federation Cup clashes with the indoor national championship here, so like every year I have the same conflict. If dates remain the same, I won’t be able to come to India but I will probably try the inter-state meet in June, which will be the last qualifier," Tejaswin said.

"Also, The international scene is still not clear. I wanted to participate in Asian Championships but that got cancelled. And, had I been a pro athlete, I could have travelled to Europe and competed in certain meets for points and for rankings. As a collegiate, I cannot travel to Europe and compete in those meets/ The only option I have is to jump 2.33m and qualify," he added.

Tejaswin will shift his focus back on his pet event - the high jump - with some personal goals on his agenda.

"From April onwards I will put all my focus and energy on the high jump. As I mentioned, with the conflicts between Federation Cup dates and championships here, I think I'll be able to try only for Inter-state meet in June, which will be my last shot for reaching the qualification mark," he said.

"I don't think COVID is a worry for me anymore. One thing I have learnt from COVID is that you shouldn't wait for the opportunity, just grab it. At this point, my only goal is to achieve a 2.33 mark, Olympics or no Olympics," Tejaswin signed off.