Tejaswin Shankar’s Journey from High Jump Star to Decathlon Hope for Asian Games
Check out Tejaswin Shankar’s transition from high jump to decathlon, his Asian Games aspirations, and his focus on self-improvement.
For Tejaswin Shankar, the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou represent a golden opportunity to champion the decathlon and shine a spotlight on track-and-field events in India.
At just 24 years old, Tejaswin is already a national record holder in the high jump and clinched a bronze medal in the high jump at last year’s Commonwealth Games. His decision to switch to the decathlon has proven to be a fruitful one.
In only his second decathlon competition, Tejaswin scored an impressive 7,648 points at the Jim Click Shootout event in Arizona, USA. While he narrowly missed Bharatinder Singh’s 2011 national record by just 10 points, his score secured him a coveted spot in the Asian Games. Following this remarkable performance, Tejaswin participated in two more decathlon events: the 62nd National Interstate Senior Athletics Championship and the Asian Athletics Championships.
Now, as he prepares for his most significant competition to date, Tejaswin’s focus remains unwaveringly on the sport itself, rather than the competition.
In a candid conversation, Tejaswin, who trains at the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS), shared his mindset ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games and how he plans to handle the pressure of high expectations.
“Medals, competitors, and statistics are all concerns for analysts,” Tejaswin noted. “As an athlete, my primary focus is on the sport. Anything can happen on a given day. Last year, based on statistics, I had no chance of making it to the Commonwealth Games, let alone winning a medal. So, at the Asian Games, my only expectation is to replicate my performance from the Commonwealth Games because the experience was truly exceptional.”
With just days remaining before the tournament commences, Tejaswin aims to concentrate on his personal performance rather than fixate on results. He firmly believes that achieving desired outcomes is possible if he delivers his best performance on any given day.
“I want to recapture the feeling of competing without worrying about the outcome. I have two full days to focus on the competition, where I’ll be thinking about it continuously. The less I think about my competitors now, the less I’ll fret about the results. My sole objective is to express myself to the best of my ability,” he explained.
However, participating in a decathlon is an arduous undertaking, featuring ten demanding events over two days. These include the 100m, long jump, high jump, shot put, and 400m on Day One, followed by the 110m hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin, and 1500m on Day Two.
To excel at this level, Tejaswin had to enhance his fitness, stamina, and endurance while adhering to a rigorous dietary regimen. His time at the IIS proved invaluable, providing him with the guidance necessary to maintain comprehensive fitness levels.
“Before the Asian Championships, while at the IIS, I underwent multiple physical tests. They guided me on how to enhance my physical abilities for major championships. I also had some physical imbalances, and they advised me on nutrition improvements,” Tejaswin revealed.
“All of these factors make a significant difference when preparing for major championships because we are striving for marginal gains. The time spent at the IIS helped me fine-tune my physical and physiological parameters, altering my training approach to ensure I have all the tools I need, whether it’s through nutrition, rehabilitation, or exercise,” he added.
In July of this year, Tejaswin made a remarkable debut at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, clinching a bronze medal with a score of 7527 points. He believes he could have achieved an even better score, but adverse weather conditions and a short three-week gap between the Interstate Championships and the Asian Athletics Championships hindered his performance on the first day.
“The Day One events suit my physicality. Unfortunately, due to weather and tight intervals, I couldn’t perform at my best,” he lamented.
Nonetheless, Tejaswin is confident that his decision to skip the World Athletics Championships and train in the humid Indian conditions has adequately prepared him for the forthcoming Asian Games.
“Leading up to the Asian Games, abstaining from competitions has reignited my competitive spirit. I believe it will significantly impact my Day 1 score,” Tejaswin declared.
“Staying in Delhi and training in similar weather conditions to Hangzhou has been the best decision. It’s late September, and it’s still 30-35 degrees Celsius with 90% humidity. This has helped me align myself and prepare for what lies ahead. I’ve spent the last 3-4 months training in this environment,” he stated.
However, competing in the sweltering Hangzhou heat during the decathlon will present an entirely new challenge. Consequently, Tejaswin emphasizes the importance of proper nutrition and hydration. He expresses gratitude to the IIS for providing support in these critical areas.
“While at the IIS, my nutritionist played a pivotal role in devising a food administration plan. He guided me on what to eat before and during competitions. I’ve adhered to this nutrition chart for the past few months and am already seeing significant benefits. I can go to practice feeling strong, well-fueled, and capable of training at a high level,” he shared.
With his sights set on a podium finish, Tejaswin, now the face of the decathlon in India, hopes to inspire other athletes to embrace the event.
“I’m delighted that the decathlon is receiving the recognition it deserves because it’s undoubtedly one of the most challenging track and field events. India has talented decathlon athletes who haven’t received the recognition they should. While it’s not an underrepresented sport, it hasn’t received its fair share of the limelight. Through my journey, I hope we can bring more attention to this event,” Tejaswin concluded.