Tejaswin Shankar says there's no rush to specialise
India's national high jump record holder wants youngsters to try different events before settling down to seek excellence in one.
Taking a cue from great Olympians past and present, Indian high jump record holder Tejaswin Shankar has called for youngsters to try their hand at every available event before picking their best.
The 21-year-old from Delhi, currently studying business administration at Kansas State University in the United States, believes singling out a discipline early in a career could potentially limit an athlete’s prospects.
“Take Jonathan Edwards, for example. Everybody knows that he's the triple jump world record holder, but a lot of people don’t know he’s run the 100 metres in 10.4 seconds.
“Everyone knows that Christian Taylor is probably the best triple jumper in the world right now, but nobody knows that he's run the 400 metres in 45 seconds and has jumped over eight metres in the long jump.”
While concentrating on a chosen field has its own advantages, Shankar thinks the pros of remaining an all-rounder outweigh the cons.
“I think early specialisation is what kills a lot of athletes because then they're just no longer athletes, they're thinking that they're high jumpers or pole vaulters or whatever,” he argued.
"You can learn something from every discipline, you need to keep your options open. Also, focusing on different areas can help you get past plateaus in form and difficult moments in your life." - Tejaswin Shankar speaking to Firstpost
Keeping things fresh
In his short but successful career so far, the Indian high jumper has juggled with different disciplines in the past.
In his 2018 collegiate season at Kansas State, Shankar was seen on the track for the men’s and mixed 4x400m relays, as well as trying his hand at long jump and triple jump.
He said, "In 2018, in my first year at college, I jumped 2.29m, a height which I think is still the national record. But the following year, I wasn't jumping very high, though I was physically strong and had improved a lot.
"Instead of getting mad, or letting the pressure get to me, I just started doing other things. I started doing the 400 metres, which I always used to do, and some other stuff which kept me in good shape.
"And somehow, when I went into the final meet of the year, which was the NCAA nationals, I managed to do really well and finish second."
Shankar believes changing his routine has helped him keep himself fresh throughout the season, something he considers to be of paramount importance.
"If you need to take a break and try other things, that’s okay. As long as you’re having fun, and you’re training at a high level, that’s all that matters. Do everything, and just stay fresh,” Shankar concluded.
The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021 gives the youngster more time to improve on his Indian record and achieve the qualification standard of 2.33m.