Tejaswin Shankar donned the India national jersey for the first time in four years and walked away with a bronze medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Thursday morning (IST). It was India's first athletics medal at the 2022 CWG. Hamish Kerr of New Zealand won gold, while Brandon Starc of Australia won silver.
Tejaswin's participation at the Games was under a cloud of doubt owing to administrative issues and he landed in Birmingham hardly three days before his event. But that didn't stop him from piercing through the Birmingham sky.
The two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion began the evening with a smooth clearance at the 2.10m mark in his first attempt. Tejaswin, with a season's best of 2.27m, barely broke a sweat.
The bar was then set at 2.15m and many a jumper failed to clear it, including defending champion Brandon Starc. Not Tejaswin, though. Backed by a boisterous crowd, he went through his run-up, glided above the bar and flashed a thumbs up for the cameras.
Tejaswin, the national record holder (2.29m) in the men's high jump, was in the zone - he was in his element. The routine was the same. Egg the crowd on, visualize your jump, go through your run up and throw yourself above the bar. Two-point-one-nine-meters - done. Tejaswin was yet to fail a single jump, each of his jumps screamed fluidity.
For context: Only seven jumpers managed to get past the 2.19m mark and Starc needed three attempts to huff and puff his way into the next round of jumps.
New Zealand's Hamish Kerr was the first jumper to get past the 2.22m mark and as Tejaswin went through his paces, the cameras panned to a moustached gentleman in the stands, cheering on the Indian jumper. In comes Murali, long-jumper Murali Sreeshankar's father and coach. It's one of those moments that you simply love to see - the father+coach of an athlete, cheering for his son's team-mate, who is the same age as his son. Sreeshankar, a medal favourite, will be in action later today and you know Tejaswin will be there. Tejaswin has not represented India in a while, but that doesn't change the equation he has with his boys.
Things you love to see: Sreeshankar's father+coach Murali is in the stands cheering for Tejaswin. Super wholesome, this.
- Shyam Vasudevan (@JesuisShyam) August 3, 2022
Back to the running track and Tejaswin went about doing his business - easing himself past the bar on the first time of asking. Five men made it through to the next round - and only Tejaswin and New Zealand's Hamish Kerr got there without an invalid jump.
The 2.25m mark was where the big boys came to play. Starc, summoning his best, cleared the marker on his first jump and Kerr followed suit.
Bahamas' Donald Thomas and England's Joel Clarke-Khan failed all of their attempts and Tejaswin, who could not get past in his first two attempts, was assured of a medal. He had one attempt left and opted to take a crack at 2.28m.
The Indian, who has a season's best of 2.27m, was unable to leap past 2.28m and bowed out with the bronze. But it was no sad matter for Tejaswin. From not knowing whether he'd even compete at the Games to watching the opening ceremony at home and reaching Birmingham less than three days before his event, Tejaswin had a wild run to the Games. The medal was the cherry on top.