The selection of the Athletics squad for the Commonwealth Games went as expected, apart from two errors – long jumper Jeswin Aldrin and high jumper Tejaswin Shankar, both of whom had reached the mark set by the Indian Athletics Federation.
Tejaswin is the only high jumper to have reached the CWG qualifying mark when he hit a jump of 2.27m less than a week ago and won the NCAA championship in the US. The vault also puts him at the top of the Indian rankings this season with the second best vault being 2.25m.
Despite the snub, both Tejaswin and Jeswin are hoping the federation will give them an opportunity to appear for a trial in California, where India is likely to hold a camp ahead of the World Cups. In fact, Tejaswin has already written a letter to the association to consider his application.
“I’m very confident that the association will give me a chance. I’ve already reached the mark but I’m ready to jump in front of them. The fact that I was able to achieve the qualifying mark at all was because I competed against a top field here. Even though I competed here in the US, all I was thinking about was CWG qualification,” Tejaswin told The Indian Express.
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Tejaswin, India’s top long jumper by far, is obviously heartbroken at the selection news. “The NCAA championship is a very serious competition. Several individuals have qualified for their respective countries simply by competing in the NCAA championship. There are regular tests and they follow best practices,” he added.
“I’m only two hours from California. I’m requesting a process even though I’m the only one who got the grade. I’m not even asking them to choose me, I’m just asking for a fair chance. I really want to represent my country at the CWG,” Tejaswin said.
The federation reasoned that only three athletes — Neeraj Chopra, Avinash Sable and Seema Punia — were granted an exemption to skip the interstate meeting, which incidentally clashed with the NCAA championship.
“It was clearly stated on the website that this was the last event to attempt to register the qualifying standard for the CWG and World Championships. Tejaswin did not want to be elected. Mr. Shankar has not asked to be exempted from the interstate championships. He didn’t get permission from us before competing in the US,” AFI President Adille Sumariwalla told reporters after the team was announced on Thursday.
Jesvin, who recorded 8.37 m and 8.26 m (former national mark) on wind assists in Kozhikode for just a few months, also missed the bus. At the interstate meeting, he recorded a series of fouls and a best attempt of 7.51 m (the CWG qualifying mark is 8 m). Jeswin will also approach the association for a selection process.
AFI currently has a 37-man roster named for the CWG in Birmingham July 28-August 8. Defending champion Neeraj Chopra is undoubtedly the biggest name on the team and will be joined by bowlers DP Manu and Rohit Yadav. This is still a preliminary list as some athletes are being selected based on whether they will perform well in California or Kazakhstan.
Indian 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 (100m hurdles); 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).