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No ice-vending machines like in US, need to break slabs with a dagger, but Tejaswin back in India to bid for decathlon national record at Asiad

When Tejaswin Shankar moved to Kansas City in the United States as a student-athlete to pursue a degree in business management, he was blown away by the world-class facilities on offer. Apart from the best coaches on the global athletics circuit, Kansas State University provided top-class training and recovery facilities.

For Tejaswin, who had spent most of his athletics career till that time on the worn-out tracks of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, a travelling physio was unheard of.

However after a fruitful stint in the States and a year working with Deloitte in their audit team. Tejaswin returned to India this year. The high jump national record holder has now shifted his focus to decathlon, in which he won an Asian Championships bronze in July this year.

Now Tejaswin is back in Delhi, gearing up for the Asian Games.

“When I was training in Kansas City, I had everything around me. I had all the facilities but I was just doing high jump there. I had a good coach there. Everything was just perfect,” he tells The Indian Express.

When Tejaswin landed in Delhi in June, he knew there was no point comparing the facilities in the US with those here, but rather making the best of what was on offer.

“For me, I had no reasons to complain. I arrived here in June. In the four months since moving here, the first thing I have learnt is to adapt,” he said.

Tejaswin Shankar Tejaswin Shankar (front row, left) after winning the decathlon silver (7648 points) at the Jim Click Shootout in Arizona. (Credit: Special arrangement.)

A little ‘jugaad’ (innovation) goes a long way, says the Delhi boy who has roots in Tamil Nadu. For post-workout ice baths, he got himself a portable bathtub and struck a deal with the local ice vendor for sillis (large slabs of ice).

“I’ve got a dagger and I break the slabs into smaller pieces and add it to the tub. In the US, you have ice vending machines everywhere. Here it’s a little work. These are small challenges that are fun to have,” he says.

These are minor niggles that Tejaswin brushes aside. The real challenge for him is to work on his 10 events ahead of the Asian Games without the supervision of his K-State coach Cliff Rivellto.

“I have three or four events where I need someone to hold my hand and teach me how to do it. You could say I probably should have gone to the US but travelling that much would have fatigued me before the competition,” says Tejaswin, India’s first and only high jump medallist at the Commonwealth Games.

Decathlon: Tejaswin Shankar back in India “I’ve got a dagger and I break the slabs into smaller pieces and add it to the tub. In the US, you have ice vending machines everywhere. Here it’s a little work. These are small challenges that are fun to have,” says Tejaswin. (Special Arrangement)

Another option was to head to Bellary to train at JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sports (IIS) where he had trained before the Asian Championships but coach Yoandri Betanzos, the two-time Worlds medallist with whom Tejaswin was eager to work, was busy with his training commitments in Europe.

“I really wanted to work with him but he was training Jeswin Aldrin (long jump national record holder) and (triple jumper) Praveen Chitravel for most of the season in Europe. In hindsight, I think that was a very good decision since now I feel fresh, excited and ready to compete again,” he says.

Familiar faces

Tejaswin also benefited from the inputs of the Delhi state coaches apart from the presence of his first mentor Sunil – the school physical education teacher who introduced him to athletics.

“Just like back in the day when I was in school, he (Sunil) still says ‘Golu, (Tejaswin’s nickname) tu toh kar lega (you can do it). So whenever he says that, I feel like I am training for Zonals or Delhi state. I know it’s the Asian Games and all but when he’s around, I don’t get overwhelmed. That’s the biggest motivation he gives me from a physiological viewpoint because at this stage everything is psychological,” he explains.

At Hangzhou, Tejaswin will face stiff competition with the likes of Yuma Maruyama (Asian Championships gold), Sutthisak Singkhon (Jakarta Asiad silver) and Sun Qihao (Asia season leader) in the mix. Tejaswin has come close to breaking the national record a few times this season and is confident of breaching the 7,658-points mark.

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“The decathlon is not an event where luck can favour you. If you can bear the elements, it can be your day. It is like a Test match. I want to break the national record at the Asian Games at least and the higher goal would be to finish on the podium,” he said.

Even though Tejaswin is fully immersed in the decathlon at the moment, he hasn’t forgotten his first love – the high jump. After the Asiad, he will consult his coach, and switch his focus back to the high jump entirely.

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“The whole point of doing the decathlon was to get better at the high jump. I eventually got sucked into it. Now that I am doing well in decathlon, I feel I have to finish what I have started. I need to make sure that I have at least the tag of an Olympian in high jump. It is a matter of pride and prestige for me after giving so many years to the event,” he says.

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