The selection of the athletics squad for the Commonwealth Games was on expected lines but for two misses – long jumper Jeswin Aldrin and high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, both of whom had achieved the mark set by the Athletics Federation of India.
Tejaswin is the only high jumper to have achieved the CWG qualification mark when he recorded a 2.27m jump and won the NCAA championship in the USA less than a week ago. The leap also puts him on top of the India leader board this season, with the second-best jump being 2.25m.
Despite the snub, both Tejaswin and Jeswin are hoping the federation gives them an opportunity to appear for a trial in California, where India is likely to hold a camp ahead of the World Championships. Tejaswin has, in fact, already written a letter to the federation to consider his request.
“I am extremely hopeful that the federation gives me one opportunity. I have already achieved the mark but I am ready to jump in front of them. The reason I was able to achieve the qualification mark in the first place was that I took part against a top field here. Even though I was participating here in the US my heart was just thinking about the CWG qualification,” Tejaswin told The Indian Express.
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Tejaswin, India’s best long jumper by a distance, is naturally heartbroken at the selection news. “NCAA championship is a very serious competition. Several people qualified for their respective countries just because they took part in the NCAA championship. There is regular testing and they follow the best practices,” he added.
“I am just two hours away from California. I am requesting for trial despite being the only one to achieve the mark. I am not even asking them to select me, I am just asking for a fair chance. I really want to represent my country at the CWG,” said Tejaswin.
The federation reasons that only three athletes – Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Seema Punia – were given an exemption to skip the inter-state meet, which was incidentally clashing with the NCAA championship.
“It was clearly mentioned on the website this was the last event where one could try to register the qualification standard for the CWG and Worlds. Tejaswin did not want to be selected. Mr Shankar did not ask to be exempted from the Inter-State Championships. He did not take permission from us before he competed in the USA,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla told reporters after the team was announced on Thursday.
Jeswin, who recorded a wind-assisted 8.37m and 8.26m (previous national mark) in Kozhikode just a couple of months, also missed the bus. At the inter-state meet, he recorded a series of fouls and a best attempt of 7.51m (the CWG qualification mark is 8m). Jeswin will also approach the federation for a selection trial.
AFI has currently named a 37-member squad for the CWG in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8. Defending champion Neeraj Chopra undoubtedly is the biggest name in the team and will be accompanied by throwers DP Manu and Rohit Yadav. This is still a provisional list since a few athletes’ selection will be decided if they perform well in California or Kazakhstan.
India athletics squad for CWG
Men: Avinash Sable (3000m Steeplechase); Nitender Rawat (Marathon); M Sreeshankar and Muhammed Anees Yahiya (Long Jump); Abdulla Aboobacker, Praveen Chithravel and Eldhose Paul (Triple Jump); Tajinderpal Singh Toor (Shot Put); Neeraj Chopra, DP Manu and Rohit Yadav (Javelin Throw); Sandeep Kumar and Amit Khatri (Race Walking); Amoj Jacob, Noah Nirmal Tom, Arokia Rajiv, Muhammed Ajmal, Naganathan Pandi and Rajesh Ramesh (4x400m Relay).
Women: S Dhanalakshmi (100m and 4x100m relay); Jyothi Yarraji (100mHurdles); Aishwarya B (Long Jump and Triple Jump) and Ancy Sojan (Long Jump); Manpreet Kaur (Shot Put); Navjeet Kaur Dhilllon and Seema Antil Punia (Discus Throw); Annu Rani and Shilpa Rani (Javelin Throw); Manju Bala Singh and Sarita Romit Singh (Hammer Throw); Bhawna Jat and Priyanka Goswami (Race Walking); Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Srabani Nanda, MV Jilna and NS Simi (4x100m relay).