Just days after India’s Athletics Federation (AFI) dropped Tejaswin Shankar from their 2022 Commonwealth Games squad despite being the only high jumper to reach the 2.27m qualifying standard, the athlete knocked on the doors of the Delhi High Court by submitting a written application.
The subpoena filed Monday and listed today calls Tejaswin’s exclusion “arbitrary” and also states the 23-year-old is a medal candidate with the CWG as “just two high jumpers (Hamish Kerr and Django Lovett). ) who will compete in the CWG 2022 in the future have a better jump than him this year.”
Tejsaswin, who represents Kansan State University, won the NCAA High Jump Championship last week with a best jump of 2.27m in Eugene, Oregon, where the upcoming World Championships will be held.
“A potential medal candidate for the CWG Games has been arbitrarily excluded, despite meeting the eligibility criterion set by the AFI. The decision is furthermore illegal, as Tejaswin should have been granted the exemption he had applied for as a top athlete – in equal measure with the 3 other (Seema Punia, Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable) athletes who were exempted from interstate competition on similar grounds. The current holder of the national record is arbitrarily excluded by the whim of AFI and this action is absolutely against the national interest,” lawyer Malak Bhatt, who will represent Tejaswin, told the newspaper.
In the 37-man squad for the Commonwealth Games announced last week, the AFI had notably omitted Tejaswin Shankar and long jumper Jeswin Aldrin, who passed the qualifying guidelines (8 meters) and recorded the second-best jump by an Indian this season has.
Post the first rejection Tejaswin wrote to the federation for a trial in California, where the Indian team is likely to hold a camp ahead of the World Championships in Oregon. The federation was quick to respond, saying the roster was “final” and that neither Tejsaswin and Jeswin would be given a trial.
On the day of the selection announcement, the AFI president said Tejaswin had never requested an exemption from the Inter-State Meet, unlike Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Seema Punia.
“It was clearly stated on the website that this was the last event where they could attempt to register the qualifying standard for the CWG and Worlds. Tejaswin did not want to be selected. Mr. Shankar has not asked for an exemption from the Interstate Championships. He did not get permission from us before competing in the US,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told reporters after announcing the team on Thursday.
But the petition states that in February Tejaswin approached head coach Radhakrishnan Nair to request an exemption from the Interstate meeting because it clashed with the NCAA championships in the US. Radhakrishnan had notified the petitioner via WhatsApp on 11.06.2022 that he would be considered by the selection committee based on his 2.27m jump at the 2022 NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championship, and repeatedly inquired about the status of the applicant’s visa for the CWG 2022,” said the petition, a copy of which is in the possession of The Indian Express.
At the interstate meet, the best jump was 2.24 m, recorded by Anil Kushare. AFI has decided not to send entries for high jump at the Commonwealth Games.
“I have a lot of hope that the federation will give me one chance. I’ve already reached the goal, but I’m ready to jump for them. The reason I was able to get the qualifying mark in the first place was because I was competing here against a top field. Even though I competed here in the US, my heart only thought about CWG qualifiers,” Tejaswin had told this newspaper when the squad was announced.
The petition also mentions how multiple times Commonwealth Games medalist Seema Punia was included in the squad depending on performance in trials despite failing to reach the qualifying mark yet.
“Punia was included in the roster despite not having met the qualifying standard in any competition this season (she has a best time of 55.97m against the qualifying standard of 58m this season). Despite this, Ms. Punia has been accepted into the team on the condition that she achieves the qualifying standard in California,” the petition reads.