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Explained: Why India's Best High Jumper Tejaswin Shankar Was Denied a CWG Spot

Tejaswin Shankar has held the men's national record in high jump since he was 17, back in 2016.

Updated
Olympic Sports
3 min read
Explained: Why India's Best High Jumper Tejaswin Shankar Was Denied a CWG Spot
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As things stand, Indian high jump national record holder Tejaswin Shankar will not be competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games next month. This, despite him being the only athlete to achieve the Indian qualification mark of 2.27 metres, at this June's NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The height of his jump should ideally have helped him book a ticket to Birmingham next month, but where his jump happened has prompted the Athletics Federation of India to completely ignore his effort and elect not to send any candidate to compete in the men's high jump event.

This week, the case reached the Delhi High Court, and the AFI Selection Committee has now been directed to review its decision.

Here’s what has unfolded over the last few weeks.

Explained: Why India's Best High Jumper Tejaswin Shankar Was Denied a CWG Spot

  1. 1. Is Tejaswin Really India's Best?

    Tejaswin Shankar has held the Indian men's national high jump record since he surpassed Hari Shankar Roy's 12-year-old mark of 2.25 metres at the Junior Nationals in November 2016. He was only 17. The very next year, he moved base to America where he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in business administration at Kansas State University.

    Shankar is 23 now, freshly graduated, and has since taken the national record up to 2.29 metres, which he achieved on 18 April 2018 at a college tournament in Lubbock, Texas.

    His season-best thus far has been June's 2.27 metres, which helped him become only the second Indian to win the American inter-college NCAA Championship.

    His 2.27-metre jump is also higher than that of any athlete who participated in the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) June CWG trail event, with the best jumper managing 2.24 metres. The qualification mark set by the AFI was 2.27 metres.

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  2. 2. So, Why Not Send India's Best?

    On 16 June, the Athletics Federation of India announced a 37-member track-and-field contingent for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which gets underway on 28 July.

    The list was based on the selection committee's decision that took into account athletes' performance at the AFI's designated qualification event – the National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships – from 10 to 14 June at the JLN Stadium in Chennai.

    Tejaswin did not compete at the event, according to the AFI, nor did he seek an exemption from participating in it.

    "Only three – Neeraj, Avinash and Seema – had sought exemption from taking part in National Inter-State. Shankar did not come to take part in National Inter-State and did not seek exemption. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA," AFI president Adil Sumariwalla said after announcing the squad.

    Just one important matter though – on the very same dates as the Indian Nationals, Tejaswin was competing at the NCAA Championships and won the gold medal with a jump higher than any Indian rival of his.

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  3. 3. Why's the Case in Court?

    While AFI president Sumariwalla announced that Shankar had not requested for exemption from the national trials, the high jumper's affidavit in the Delhi High Court states that he did, in fact, request chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair for the same, in February 2022. His team have submitted screenshots of WhatsApp communication between Shankar and Nair where the coach "repeatedly inquired about the status of the Petitioner’s visa for the CWG 2022," says the petition filed by Shankar's counsels Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Malak Bhatt.

    The high jumper's legal team also have based their appeal on the fact that Tejaswin Shankar is among India's foremost track-and-field stars and could be a medal contender in Birmingham, and his selection should be made on the basis of merit, and not due to his absence from an event.

    "The petitioner is at present, indisputably, the best Indian high jumper in the world, and on the basis of current form is undoubtedly a medal contender at the CWG 2022. In fact, only two high jumpers (both non-Indian) who will prospectively be competing at the CWG 2022 have a better jump than him this year," said his legal team in their affidavit.

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  4. 4. What's Next?

    On Wednesday, Justice Jasmeet Singh at the Delhi High Court heard the case and directed that "the Selection Committee shall consider the case of Shankar on merits of his jumps and his non-participation in the interstate championship shall not be the sole criteria for rejecting his candidature."

    "These are record holders and you don't let them go... He (Shankar) is a medal prospect. Let it not be an ego problem," the court added.

    The court has now demanded a reply from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Selection Committee of the AFI on the matter.

    While the AFI's legal counsel Parth Goswami informed the court that the final list of track-and-field athletes had already been submitted to the Indian Olympics Association (IOA), the court has set Friday as the next day of hearing.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Is Tejaswin Really India's Best?

Tejaswin Shankar has held the Indian men's national high jump record since he surpassed Hari Shankar Roy's 12-year-old mark of 2.25 metres at the Junior Nationals in November 2016. He was only 17. The very next year, he moved base to America where he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in business administration at Kansas State University.

Shankar is 23 now, freshly graduated, and has since taken the national record up to 2.29 metres, which he achieved on 18 April 2018 at a college tournament in Lubbock, Texas.

His season-best thus far has been June's 2.27 metres, which helped him become only the second Indian to win the American inter-college NCAA Championship.

His 2.27-metre jump is also higher than that of any athlete who participated in the Athletics Federation of India's (AFI) June CWG trail event, with the best jumper managing 2.24 metres. The qualification mark set by the AFI was 2.27 metres.

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So, Why Not Send India's Best?

On 16 June, the Athletics Federation of India announced a 37-member track-and-field contingent for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which gets underway on 28 July.

The list was based on the selection committee's decision that took into account athletes' performance at the AFI's designated qualification event – the National Inter State Senior Athletics Championships – from 10 to 14 June at the JLN Stadium in Chennai.

Tejaswin did not compete at the event, according to the AFI, nor did he seek an exemption from participating in it.

"Only three – Neeraj, Avinash and Seema – had sought exemption from taking part in National Inter-State. Shankar did not come to take part in National Inter-State and did not seek exemption. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA," AFI president Adil Sumariwalla said after announcing the squad.

Just one important matter though – on the very same dates as the Indian Nationals, Tejaswin was competing at the NCAA Championships and won the gold medal with a jump higher than any Indian rival of his.

Why's the Case in Court?

While AFI president Sumariwalla announced that Shankar had not requested for exemption from the national trials, the high jumper's affidavit in the Delhi High Court states that he did, in fact, request chief national coach Radhakrishnan Nair for the same, in February 2022. His team have submitted screenshots of WhatsApp communication between Shankar and Nair where the coach "repeatedly inquired about the status of the Petitioner’s visa for the CWG 2022," says the petition filed by Shankar's counsels Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Malak Bhatt.

The high jumper's legal team also have based their appeal on the fact that Tejaswin Shankar is among India's foremost track-and-field stars and could be a medal contender in Birmingham, and his selection should be made on the basis of merit, and not due to his absence from an event.

"The petitioner is at present, indisputably, the best Indian high jumper in the world, and on the basis of current form is undoubtedly a medal contender at the CWG 2022. In fact, only two high jumpers (both non-Indian) who will prospectively be competing at the CWG 2022 have a better jump than him this year," said his legal team in their affidavit.

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What's Next?

On Wednesday, Justice Jasmeet Singh at the Delhi High Court heard the case and directed that "the Selection Committee shall consider the case of Shankar on merits of his jumps and his non-participation in the interstate championship shall not be the sole criteria for rejecting his candidature."

"These are record holders and you don't let them go... He (Shankar) is a medal prospect. Let it not be an ego problem," the court added.

The court has now demanded a reply from the Athletics Federation of India (AFI), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Selection Committee of the AFI on the matter.

While the AFI's legal counsel Parth Goswami informed the court that the final list of track-and-field athletes had already been submitted to the Indian Olympics Association (IOA), the court has set Friday as the next day of hearing.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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