Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya is in a celebratory mood after 23-year-old Tejaswin Shankar, a former student, bagged the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games high jump event.
Sunil Kumar, who was Shankar’s coach at the school from class 8 onwards, said sweets have been distributed in the school multiple times since he bagged the medal with a jump of 2.22 m. Alumni of the school, too, have taken to social media with congratulatory messages.
With his win, Shankar became the first Indian to win a medal in the high jump event at the Commonwealth Games. After the Athletics Federation of India did not include him in the contingent for the games in Birmingham, he moved the Delhi High Court which asked the AFI to consider including him. While he was later told by the Indian Olympic Association that the organisers of the games had not accepted his entry, he was later given the go-ahead to participate. He arrived at Birmingham in the nick of time.
Kumar spoke to Shankar about seven hours before his medal-winning competition. “I told him not to think about what happened and what didn’t, and asked him to enjoy and do his best. The day he won the medal I spoke to him in the morning. Many people were calling me to wish me too. The days before he left, I couldn’t sleep, wondering what would happen. There’s happiness when a kid who has been with you from the start wins a medal,” Kumar said.
The coach, 37, spotted Shankar, among other students in 2012, and began training him in high jump, pushing him to make the switch from cricket, which he was playing then.
“The year I joined the school, students of class 8 were running and I noticed him. He was very tall even then. I spoke to him and asked him what he does. He said he plays cricket. I asked him about athletics and told him he has the qualities. We started training during the games period. This was back when we didn’t even have a high-jump mat,” Kumar said. Shankar’s father wanted him to continue playing cricket, but a few victories later at athletics events in school and at the zonals, he was convinced too, Kumar added.
Shankar studied in the same school from nursery to class 12 and then moved to Kansas to study further in 2017.
Did Kumar see the Commonwealth Games win coming? “Even after he moved to the USA, we would discuss his competitions and training. I was sure that he wouldn’t leave this (high jump). Koshish thi pehle teen mein aane ki (the effort was to be in the first three positions)… and you see what he has been able to do,” Kumar said.
“He did two sessions of training with me here at Thyagraj stadium before he left, in the midst of that yes or no over whether he might actually get to go for the games,” Kumar added.