Diverse backgrounds but similar ordeal; tale of 2022 CWG medallists Tejaswin Shankar & Tulika Maan

Tulika Maan - TheSportingHub
Despite her run-in with the Judo Federation of India, Tulika Maan won silver in the women’s plus-78kg category at the 2022 Birmingham CWG. Photo credit: SAI

Two Delhi athletes displayed nerves of steel to excel at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Tejaswin Shankar became the first Indian high jumper to win a medal, bronze, judoka Tulika Maan won silver in women’s plus-78kg late on Wednesday night.

Both athletes hail from diverse backgrounds but underwent a similar ordeal to earn a place in the Indian contingent.

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Four months ago, Tulika’s weight group was excluded by the Judo Federation of India (JFI) as it felt that Indian judokas didn’t stand a chance in the heavyweight (plus-78kg) category at the Games. Tulika had to fight her case and was successful, but at the cost of some sleepless nights and missing vital training sessions.

Shankar’s journey to Birmingham is no different. The 23-year-old Delhi-based high jumper qualified for the Games by achieving a height of 2.27m, the qualification mark set by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to qualify for the CWG, in March at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition in the US.

The AFI didn’t consider Shankar’s NCAA achievement, saying he didn’t compete in the final domestic selection trials at Chennai in June. The disagreement forced Shankar to knock on the doors of the Delhi High Court. Even a week before the Games started, the high jumper was unsure of competing.

Finally, both athletes made it to Birmingham and shut their critics by winning medals.

Not only will the medals ensure cash incentives from the state and Central governments, the podium finish will act as a catalyst for upcoming competitions.

The next major competition for Shankar is the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest and the postponed Asian Games in China next year.

Tulika too will be looking ahead at the 2023 season, which will feature the Asian Games as the continental games are far more challenging than the CWG, and will be a good platform to prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.