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Inspiring reel maker, India's 2nd fastest hurdler: Tejas Shirse wants to make mark at world level

Young hurdler Tejas Shirse set a new Federation Cup record to live up to his billing, but fell agonisingly short of the Asian Ch'ships mark.

Tejas Shirse

Tejas Shirse (tejasshirse/Instagram)


Abhijit Nair

Published: 20 May 2023 10:27 AM GMT

The year 2022 was a mixed bag for Tejas Shirse. The young hurdler observed from the sidelines as his woman counterpart Jyothi Yarraji shot to national prominence with multiple record-breaking runs.

It was not as if Shirse was not improving. He was constantly on an upward curve and clocked his personal best of 13.84s and clinched the title as the National Games returned after a 7-year hiatus.

But, there was something bugging him. There was a relentless feeling from within that he could progress faster.

Injuries were a constant part of Shirse’s life at this point. As soon as he would recover from one injury, he would pick up another. His confidence was at an all-time low.

However, the Maharashtra lad has finally seemed to turn a corner. At the Federation Cup in Ranchi this week, Tejas Shirse clocked an impressive 13.61s – his best yet, in the heats before taking home the gold medal with a timing of 13.72s in the final.

“In the heats, the conditions were better compared to the final. Before the final, we were made to wait for a long time after we were done with our warm-ups. My body got very relaxed and that did not help my case,” Shirse told The Bridge after his win.

It was a matter of so close yet so far for Shirse, as he came agonisingly close to the 110m hurdles entry standard set for the upcoming Asian Athletics Championships by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) at 13.57s.

“I was very close to the qualification standard for the Asian Championships. I might still have a chance. I would have liked to qualify here itself but nonetheless, it is a big stride forward,” he said.

“I dipped from 13.84s to 13.61s in this competition. It is a huge improvement from where I am coming from with all the injuries. And I believe I still have a lot more left in the tank,” Shirse added.

Tejas hopes his records earn him a job

Hailing from Sambhaji Nagar (formerly Aurangabad) in Maharashtra, Tejas Shirse attributes his rise in Indian athletics to having received the right guidance at the right time.

“A retired army major by the name GK Ghuge encouraged me to get into athletics. My school PT teacher put me into hurdles. It was very difficult to stay motivated early on,” Shirse says.

“Back home we did not have any synthetic track to train. Our financial conditions were not the best either. I could not even ask for shoes at home. The cost of petrol itself to reach the training ground was too much to bear. For close to two years, I managed everything myself without asking for money from my family,” Tejas recalls his early struggles.

Born to a farmer father, who has been sick and unable to work over the past few years, and a homemaker mother, it has been difficult for the young Tejas to keep his mind at ease.

At first, there was a nod of disapproval from his family to handle too when he decided to pursue sports professionally.

“No one from my family had ever played sports seriously. Our financial condition was also not the best either, so it was a bit difficult to make them understand at first. But, slowly they have come around,” says the second fastest Indian hurdler of all time.

“I have also approached Railways for a sports quota job. I hope that will help in improving things back home,” he reflects.

Hunger to make mark at world level

Despite all this, Tejas Shirse remains as confident as anyone. During the conversation, the 20-year-old reiterates multiple times his aim of setting a new national record and running a sub-13.4s time.

The current Indian national record in men’s 110m hurdles stands at 13.48s by Siddhanth Thingalaya.

“Realistically, I believe I can touch 13.3s very soon. If I achieve that mark, I will pose a strong challenge at the world level. If I touch 13.3s I will also be a strong medal contender at the Asian Games later this year. That is what the aim is,” Shirse asserts.

How does he plan on improving by such a massive margin? Tejas has a straightforward answer.

“James Hillier has a plan in place for me. I have the right guidance at Reliance Foundation, and I trust them to take me to that level,” he says.

“I bonded with Hillier a lot during the Asian Indoor Athletics earlier this year. It was my first event after joining his camp and I competed with a small injury. I feel that kind of gave him confidence that I am hungry to compete and improve,” the hurdler adds further.

For now, Tejas is working on his physical strength with the 13.3s mark on his mind.

“Since I trained in gymnastics for close to a year before athletics, the flexibility for hurdles came naturally to me. I am currently working on improving my strength and keeping my base strong while running,” he reiterates.

Switching off when not training or competing is a necessity for any sportsperson. While quite a lot of athletes find solace in reading or music, Tejas’ escape is videography.

A quick look at his Instagram feed reveals a lot of high-quality motivational reels – all shot and edited by Tejas himself.

“I love videography. I want to learn more if given a chance. Shooting myself with a camera on a tripod and later editing the videos – it takes my mind a bit away from athletics,” he reveals.

“I have young kids, who text me saying that my reels motivate them. It encourages me to keep doing it. Athletics, for me, is a medium of self-expression. And if I am able to inspire people through it, can there be anything better,” Shirse signs off.

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