By Pratik Sagar
New Delhi, June 24 | When you are more than 13,000 kilometres away from home and the world is hit by an invisible force, things just cannot be right and same thing happened with national high jump record holder Tejaswin Shankar. The athlete is at the Kansas State University, pursuing accounting and finance on athletics scholarship, when the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the entire globe.
But according to his own admission, the lockdown measures in the US weren’t as strict as few other countries, so that helped Tejaswin continue with his normal training and keeping his mind away from a topic that has become most-talked about in these unprecedented times.
“The one thing that has always kept me motivated here is the fact that I was able to train. If I wasn’t able to train then none of these things would’ve mattered,” Tejaswin told IANS.
“The lockdown here was not as strict as in India so I was able to carry on with the training. Though I wasn’t able to high jump because I didn’t have access to the training field but I was able to lift, modify my training.
“My semester got done in May and after that, I had some time off and now summer classes have started up again, so I think that is also another thing we underestimate the studies and education, even if we don’t look at it as something that helps, it can be seen as a distraction,” he added.
Physically, he must have been able to train himself but Tejaswin conceded that keeping his head in the right place has been a problem considering the uncertainty revolving international sports.
Tejaswin was still some distance from qualifying for Olympics when all sport was suspended around the world but the 21-year-old stated keeping himself motivated, without preparing for a particular tournament, has been a problem.
“Generally, when your training has a training plan like a general preparation phase where you work on a general physicality and improve your endurance strength and then you do special preparation that’s where techs, you start running around in circles, curve runs, and so on for the high jumps,” Tejaswin said.
“When you are in the actual competition phase, you do jump practice. However, at this point, there is no phase as you don’t know when there will be a competition.
“So it is hard at certain points for me to find the motivation to train but at the same time if I will stop training now then it will become harder to come back in shape. That’s why I am still training.
“We are also uncertain about the Olympics even though it is confirmed that it will happen in July 2021 but I have my eyes set on what is coming up next and training to be prepared.”
The multi-national event was initially set to be hosted in July this year but due to the virus threat, it will now take place from July 23 till August 8 next year. Tejaswin, who still needs to better his personal best to qualify for the Olympics, stated that in a year’s time he will be more mature and better prepared for the showpiece event in Tokyo.
“Yes, the postponement didn’t affect me because I had not qualified for the Games and by next year, I will be one year older and probably more mature. I will have more time to train under my belt,” he said.
“I should be more ready ideally and I think I will be a lot more ready than I was this year. I was really confident this year if the Olympics had happened, I would’ve really jumped higher but then this coronavirus outbreak brought everything on halt.
“I do not hope about anything at this point but I know one thing I have to be flexible and keep training and prepare myself and not to worry about the outcome and be confident enough,” he added.
Recently, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement intensified across the world, especially in the United States, following the death of African-American Geroge Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police personnel. Tejaswin gave an insight into what was it like with the protests raging around him.
“After the George Floyd incident, that was the tip of the iceberg. The whole country united and then everybody stood up against racism and all these practices that are going on for so long.
“There were some other protests as well that were going around in Manhattan, Kansas, and maybe not big, I mean those protests didn’t turn violent. Denver and other places had a violent protest, buses were set on fire. It wasn’t that bad here.
“The cause is really very important that is why those protests really mattered cause we are talking about human rights here.
“I feel these things should be just dialed into everybody because it is basic human rights but the fact that we are having to talk about these things and about the community that their lives matters is just ridiculous because of course every body’s life matters and if this is what we have come down to then I really don’t know what progress we are talking about in the 21st century.”