Tejaswin Shankar’s rare feat and NCAA’s contribution in developing sports

The rare achievement

Indian high jumper Tejaswin Shankar scripted his name in the history books by becoming only the third Indian to win at the United States’ National Collegiate Athletic Association Track and Field Championships. The Delhi born cleared 2.24m in his final jump to edge past second placed Shelby. Interestingly, the win came just a few days after the Delhi-born pulled out of the upcoming Jakarta Asian Games to avoid serious injuries due to a strained neck.

The first Indian to achieve the feat was Mohinder Gill who won five triple jump titles between 1969 and 1971. Vikas Gowda, the discus thrower is the other winner, claiming the title in 2012. Suffering from an injury, Shankar cleared 2.08, 2.13, 2.18 and 2.21 with his first jumps and finally recording 2.24m in his final attempt and was overjoyed with the win.

The athlete representing Kansas City won’t be part of India’s contingent for the Asian Games; nonetheless, this was also a remarkable display and promises much more in the future. “I was really looking forward to this, so I’ll probably go to Disneyland. I’ll probably go there and spend a couple of weeks and then get back to my summer training,” said Shankar after the win.

The legacy

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is an organisation which regulates athletes of more than 1000 institutions and conferences in the United States of America. It organises athletic meets of the concerned colleges and universities and is one of the most prestigious events in the field of sports in the world. Spread across various disciplines, it attracts huge attention and is broadcasted over various television channels.

The Championships has played an influential role in developing sports from this part of the world. Athletes competing from the University level help them to bring the best out of them and are the main reason why the United States has produced the best lot for so long. It is a lesson which other countries should learn from! Development at the University level should be considered as a priority in our country too.

Image: TrackTown USA

The more importance given to athletes given at a young age will yield better results when they compete at the International level. With the exposure Tejaswin is receiving at the North American country, it is clearly visible that he is a possible medal contender at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games!

The high jumper moved to the United States after he was awarded a scholarship last year. He was training under veteran coach Cliff Rovelto and reached unprecedented heights which include a national record with a jump of 2.29m earlier this year.  Having made his debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games a few months ago, he finished at the 6th position in Gold Coast. It is not only Tejaswin, there are also several others from India who gained a lot from the NCAA.

On the other hand, the Indian University Games yield comparatively lower results by the top participants on an average. The most recent Inter University games in the country saw 2.09m as worthy of the High Jump Gold, a stark difference in levels and competition.

The Indian connection

Indian Tennis star Somdev Devvarman is a former winner at the NCAA Championships. He won the Men’s singles title twice in 2007 and 2008 respectively. He moved to the United States in 2004 and completed his studies at the University of California. It was after his heroics at the University based athletic meet that he was acknowledged by the Tennis fraternity.

India’s most celebrated discus thrower Vikas Gowda who retired a few days ago has also been a part of the NCAA while his stay at the University of North Carolina. It was after his appearance at the University level that his career took an uphill. After a poor show at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he came back stronger at the London Games. Not only did he qualify for the final round but he finished at the 8th position, which is a remarkable finish for an Indian at a field and track event!