Why making Tokyo Olympics is a mountain to climb for Tejaswin Shankar

Heptathlete Tejaswin Shankar needs to hit the 2.33m mark in the high jump to qualify for the Olympics. His personal best is 2.29m.

By Naveen Peter

Double national record holder Tejaswin Shankar believes that he will need to go the extra mile if he is to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

The national record holder in high jump set a new mark in heptathlon last weekend with an impressive performance at the DeLoss Dodds Invitational. The 22-year-old Tejaswin scored a total of 5,650 points to better PJ Vinod’s tally of 5,561 from the 2008 Asian Indoor Championships.

With the outdoor season set to get underway in the coming months, both in India and in the USA, the Indian athlete has trained his sight to achieve the Olympic qualification mark.

With a personal best of 2.29 metres in high jump -- also a national record -- the New Delhi athlete is staring at a huge task if he must achieve the Olympic cut-off of 2.33 metres.

“It's hard to think of the possibility of qualifying for the Olympic Games when there are no qualification events happening,” he told ESPN India.

“As a collegiate athlete, it's not possible to travel everywhere for ranking points. I'm just focusing on getting the 2.33 mark. Everybody is running short of time.”

On the performance front, the Indian athlete was confident that the indoor run at the collegiate level in the USA gave him opportunities to shape up for the grind that awaits him. 

“It’s important to be an athlete with a broad base and multiple skills before being a high jumper,” Tejaswin Shankar said. “Most of these events are complementary to one another. 

“The last three steps in high jump and long jump are pretty similar, the only difference is in high jump the take-off is outside the body while in long jump it's under the body and you move forward.”

Though Tejaswin Shankar, who is pursuing a degree in business management at Kansas State University, was happy with his latest achievement, he feels his record score (in heptathlon) was not enough.

While 5,650 was a national record for India, Tejaswin Shankar's performance was the seventh-best mark for Kansas State University.

“It feels good...like I have accomplished something,” Tejaswin said. “Two national records...Of course, we have to look at the standard of the record as well. 

“If a high jumper can break a heptathlon national record, I guess we have to go a long way before we can call ourselves an athletics superpower,” he opined.