A couple of months ago, Tejaswin Shankar made it clear that his next big goal was to jump 2.33m, and it did not matter whether the Olympics happened or not. He explained that the height, being the Olympic entry standard, would make him happy even if the Tokyo Games are not held.
The 22-year-old from Delhi, representing Kansas State University, was close to his best on Saturday while winning the high jump gold in the Big 12 outdoor track and field championships at Manhattan, USA.
He was just a centimetre below his Indian men’s record as he retained the Big 12 title with 2.28m. He had won the Big 12 gold in 2019 earlier.
Opening at 2.06m, Shankar needed his third jump to clear 2.25m but sailed over 2.28 with his first try. He attempted 2.31m twice and the Tokyo height of 2.33 once, but could not clear them.
The 2.28m will place him in the joint 12th spot in the World Athletics’ high jump top list this year and could put him in a decent rung in the Road to Tokyo rankings in the next few days.
There are 32 spots in the high jump in Tokyo and 14 athletes have already made the cut through the entry standard.
Third title this year
It was Shankar’s third title this year — he won the Jim Click Shootout in Arizona with 2.19m on April 10 and the John Jacobs Invitational with 2.25 in Oklahoma later that month.
His next event could be the NCAA outdoor championships in Oregon in early June.
Shankar, who is on a scholarship at the KSU, missed out the three Indian Grand Prix legs and the Federation Cup in Patiala in February and March.
But now while the other Indian athletes are unable to travel for training and competitions abroad, he is on good ground competing in the US with the Olympics just over two months away.
The next two national meets in India, the Grand Prix-4 and the Inter-State Nationals, are scheduled to be held in Bengaluru in June but that look doubtful with the rising COVID-19 cases in the country.