On Wednesday, Tejaswin Shankar created history in Birmingham after winning India their first-ever Commonwealth Games medal in the high jump. Shankar, who is the national record holder, jumped 2.22m on countback to secure bronze for India.
There couldn’t have been any better riposte to the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) who snubbed Shankar just ahead of the Commonwealth Games. It was an arbitrary decision from the athletic body, as Shankar has been the national record-holder in the high jump.
While representing Kansas University, Shankar achieved his personal best of 2.27m, which was good enough to earn a direct qualification for the CWG Games. Among those competing in Birmingham, only Hamish Kerr and Django Lovett had registered better records than him. Kerr eventually won the gold medal.
The AFI reasoned that they overlooked Shankar as he didn’t participate in the Inter-State Athletics Championship, held earlier this year in India. Shankar, who currently works as an accountant in the USA, asked the federation for a trial in California, where the Indian athletics camp was held earlier this year.
But the AFI paid no heed to his request and included Anil Kushare, whose record of 2.24m was significantly lesser than Shankar’s, in the Indian contingent. He then dragged the AFI to Delhi High Court.
“The current national record holder is being arbitrarily excluded at the whims of AFI and this action is absolutely against national interest,” advocate Malak Bhatt, who represented Tejaswin, told Indian Express.
The decision came in his favour just a week before the CWG Games kickstarted. While the rest of the Indian contingent was already in Birmingham, Shankar watched the opening ceremony of the event from his home.
“I have always been an advocate of – if the policy applies to everybody, then everyone has to abide by it…My biggest problem was I was competing at the Collegiate circuit (in the US), and I was a student there. I can’t go anywhere to compete just like that…I wanted to represent the country and play but I had to go to school,” said Shankar to Times Of India after winning the medal.
Shankar will now go back to USA to complete his studies, while his next mission in the high jump is to qualify for the World Athletics Championships.
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