Lockdown diaries: Tejaswin Shankar on coping with isolation in Kansas

The national high jump record holder has been trying to keep himself fit and sane even as the coronavirus pandemic triggered lockdowns in the United States.

Tejaswin Shankar said he goes to the high school grounds for basic running and trains to keep himself fit. (File Photo)   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

Tejaswin Shankar was in Albuquerque for the NCAA Division 1 Indoor Tack and Field Championships. The event was cancelled because of COVID-19 and Tejaswin, along with his Kansas State University teammates, moved back to campus.

That was the last time the 21-year old stepped out of the city he’s called home for the past three years. The national high jump record holder and student of Business Administration has since then been trying to keep himself fit and sane even as the pandemic took a serious turn in the United States and triggered lockdowns.

“It’s actually not too bad, for now. The most important thing is just trying to stay sane and preserve some semblance of normalcy,” Tejaswin told Sportstar from his residence in Kansas. “It is difficult for everyone but more so for a sportsperson. For most of us, life revolves around a routine that is mainly about training and working out, that’s how we even keep track of the schedules and days. Now, all days are practically Sundays!” he added.

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The Delhi boy admitted he was better off than many others. “The coasts are totally off with complete lockdown – on the west places like California etc and New York et al on the east – with no flights. Here in Kansas, because it is a lot of farmland, huge open spaces and not very dense population, things are easier. There have been no cases here so far. There are restrictions but I can move out. The training facilities at the university are closed but the high school grounds are accessible. They are basically huge open spaces with tracks and no gates. I go there for basic running and train and keep myself fit, be ready for whenever things get better," he explained.

That might change soon, though. “I am expecting stricter restrictions from this week which might make things tougher. The good thing is physical training has been included in essential activities so going out for a run hopefully won’t be a problem,” he said. Food, he quipped, was the least of his concerns. “I don’t eat beef or ham and veggies aren't exactly on top of people’s lists so I am good. And toilet paper is not a worry either -- advantage of being an Indian!” he laughed.

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The humour to stay sane aside, he has been trying to improvise his workouts indoors – using rock-filled sacks as barbells and running up and down stairs – but admitted that, more than the lockdown itself, it was the uncertainty of future that was frustrating. “See, all sportspersons have a goal they work and train specifically for. There is a target that motivates you. But now, there is nothing particular to look forward to. You don’t know anything about the future – a week, month or year from now.

“Most athletes like to work with certainties. A competition, a qualification – training is planned down to months, days, hours leading up to an event. Now there is no clarity. New Olympics dates have been announced for next year but who knows? What if this goes on till September or beyond? No one knows when this will truly be over or how things will be when it does get over. And when it does, the logistics of competitions, qualifications etc all have to be taken care of. There is a serious lack of motivation to stay fit because you don’t know what you are staying fit for,” he explained.

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These are worries every sportsperson has even though not many have articulated them so openly and clearly. Tejaswin, though, knows better than worrying about things he has no control of. “People forever crib about wanting a break from routine but now that they have, most do not know what to do about it. Abhi pata chalega kaun kitne pani me hai. (Now we'll see how they deal with it.)

"It’s all about mental strength and staying in the moment right now. As for me, I play online for a while, do some push-ups and lift weights but the best thing to have happened is school. I have projects due so school has kept me busy and focussed. Classes have moved online. If there was only sports, I would have maybe gone mad,” he signed off.

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