‘Expectation is to try and recreate what I did at Commonwealth Games,’ asserts Tejaswin Shankar ahead of Asian Games 2023
The 24-year-old clinched bronze medal in high jump at Commonwealth Games in 2022.
For Tejaswin Shankar, the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou set to begin on Saturday, is an opportunity to promote Decathlon and bring the track-and-field event to focus in India. The 24-year-old athlete, who already has the High Jump National Record to his name, and who also secured the Bronze medal in High Jump at the Commonwealth Games last year, the decision to switch to Decathlon has proven fruitful.
In his just second competition as a decathlete, Tejaswin scored 7,648 points at the Jim Click Shootout competition in Arizona, USA, missing out on Bharatinder Singh’s 2011 national record by 10 points. The score also allowed him to cross the 7,500-point mark needed to secure an Asian Games berth. After his stellar performance at Arizona, Tejaswin competed in two more Decathlon events: the 62nd National Interstate Senior Athletics Championship and, most recently, the Asian Athletics Championships 2023.
Now, ahead of his biggest competition to date, Tejaswin’s focus is on the sport and not on the competition.
In a candid conversation, the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) athlete, opened up on his mindset ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games, and how he is looking to deal with the pressure of expectations.
“I feel like medals, competitors, statistics, are all for the analysts to worry about,” Tejaswin said. “As an athlete, the one thing that I worry about is the sport. Anything can happen on a given day. Because if we go by statistics, last year, I had no shot first of all, even making it to the Commonwealth Games and second of all, getting a medal there. So for me at the Asian Games, the whole expectation is to try and recreate what I did at the Commonwealth Games. Because the experience was really good,” Tejaswin said.
Moreover, with a few days left for the tournament to begin, Tejaswin wants to focus on his own self rather than worrying about the results. He believes if he performs his best on any day, he can achieve the desired results.
“I want to have that feeling back of going there, and competing to the best of my ability without worrying about what may happen, and what may not happen. I have two whole days of worrying about competition where I am going to continuously think about it for 48 hours. The less I think about the competitors now, the less I worry about the results. I think that’s the best approach.
“I know that if I am able to show up on that given day, I am as competitive or better as any other competitor in that field. My only goal is to go and express myself to the best of my ability,” he said.
But competing in a decathlon is not an easy task. It is a gruelling competition comprising 10 events – 100m, long jump, high jump, shot put and 400m on Day One, followed by 110m hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin and 1500m on Day 2.
To compete at the highest level at the event, Tejaswin had to work on his fitness, stamina, and endurance abilities, along with maintaining a rigorous diet programme. His time at the IIS proved helpful in this regard, giving him a proper direction to maintain his all-around fitness levels.
“Before the Asian Championships, when I was at IIS, I was able to get multiple physical tests and they guided me on how to improve my physical abilities to prepare for major championships. I also had some physical imbalances and they guided me on how I can improve my diet nutrition-wise,” Tejaswin said.
“All these things really make a big difference going into major Championships because at this point, we fight for those small margins. Hence, time at IIS really helped me channel those physical physiological parameters and helped me in changing the course of my training and getting ready for the Asian Games to make sure that I have everything that I need to get that extra 1% from a nutrition rehab, and exercise standpoints,” he added.
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In July this year, Tejaswin made a stunning debut at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, by claiming the Bronze medal, earning his first international medal in the event, with a score of 7527 points. He believes that he could have achieved a better score but the weather conditions, and the short interval of three weeks between the Interstate Championships, and the Asian Athletics led to him not being his best self on Day 1 competitions.
“The Day One events are really suited for my physicality. I was not able to do justice to those events, from my analysis, due to the weather and short intervals,” he said.
But now, Tejaswin believes the decision to give the World Athletics Championships a miss, along with the decision to train in humid conditions in India has prepared him well for the upcoming Asian Games.
“Ahead of the Asian Games, because I was able to deprive myself of competitions, I have regained the emotional feeling of wanting to compete. I believe it will make a big difference in my Day – 1 score,” Tejaswin said.
“The best decision I could ever make was to stay back in Delhi and train here because the weather is very similar to what it’s going to be in Hangzhou. We are in late September and it’s still 30-35 degrees and 90 percent humid. It has really helped me channel myself and get ready for what is expected to come, because I have spent time training in this environment for the last 3-4 months,” he said.
But participating in a decathlon in Hangzhou heat will be a whole new challenge, and hence Tejaswin believes he needs to have proper nutrition and hydration in place. He expresses gratitude to the IIS for providing him support in these areas as well.
“When I was in IIS, my nutritionist really helped me with the periodization of how I need to administer food. He guided me on what I needed to eat during competitions or before the competitions. He helped me with the nutrition chart which I have been able to follow since then for the past three-four months and I am already seeing big returns. I am also able to go to practice without feeling bloated or feeling of have eaten too much. I feel strong, I am fuelled and I am able to train at a high level,” he said.
With eyes on a podium finish, Tejaswin, who has become the face of the decathlon in India, hopes he can inspire other athletes to move towards the event.
“I am happy that an event like the decathlon is getting the attention that it deserves because it’s definitely one of the hardest events in track and field. We have good decathlon athletes in India who have not been able to get the recognition they deserve. It’s not an underrepresented sport but has not received its fair share of limelight. I am really happy that through me, hopefully, we can highlight the event,” he signed off.
The Asian Games is being telecast live on the Sony Sports Network with live streaming on SonyLIV.