Asian Games 2018
21-Aug-2018 20:58

Arpinder Singh, the renaissance man

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As he stretches his legs at the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education in Thiruvananthapuram, the steely look in his eyes and his twirled-up moustache paint a picture of determination.

The rain clouds gathering above him mirror the ones that loomed over his career, not so long ago, but Arpinder Singh does not notice them. He has eyes only for one target — the upcoming Asian Games.

In 2014, a 21-year-old Arpinder made waves in Indian athletics, leaping a distance of 17.17 metres to break the national record in the triple jump and following it up with a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The athlete from Amritsar moved his base to London the following year with the aim of booking a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, but the move backfired.  Arpinder’s career plunged — the results faded and his national mark was reclaimed by veteran jumper Renjith Maheswary while his Olympic dream remained an impossible one.

However, he has put all that disappointment behind him and gotten his career back on track. He narrowly missed out on a bronze at the 2018 CWG in Gold Coast and has once again touched the 17-metre mark with a 17.09m effort at the National Inter-state Athletics Championship in Guwahati last June to make the cut for Asiad.

“My aim is to do well at the Asian Games in Jakarta. I cannot tell you about a specific mark that I am looking to achieve, but I can promise you that I will not return empty-handed,” said a confident Arpinder. The 25-year-old has been training close to two years at the SAI National Athletics Academy (Jumps) based at the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education in Thiruvananthapuram where the training is led by Romanian coach Bedros Bedrosian. During that time, Arpinder has taken a liking to Kerala and now calls it his second home.

“I have been working on my weak points lately — especially my arm action, the last stride and the landing as well. Wherever there is a weakness, we are trying to correct it. I follow my training plan and get help from Kerala State Sports Council coach PB Jaikumar and my training partner (long jumper) Ankit Sharma for specific drills,” he told Express.

The key to his redemption, Arpinder tells, has been unlearning everything that he learnt in his 11-month detour at the London Coaching Foundation under 1986 CWG triple jump champion John Herbert. “They changed my technique which I failed to adapt to. The language, food and weather were also barriers in England,” he reminisced.

“My career was heading in a good direction before London. But the coach there asked me to do a lot of things which I wasn’t used to in a very short period of time. I think a lot of what was said was also lost in translation making the stint an absolute personal catastrophe for me,” Arpinder said.

“There were plenty of expectations after the 17-metre jump in 2014. The government was spending a lot of money for my training and there was the pressure of repaying the faith they had in me. But that wasn’t happening.”

Before excelling in the triple jump, he had tried his hand at many other events and failed. “My father was an Army man and wanted me to do something for the country. I tried and failed in 100m, 200m, 400m and also the long jumps.”

That was when coach DS Bal of SAI Amritsar told the young Arpinder he will do better if he switched to triple jumps.

“That was a turning point in my career and I think the Asiad will be one of its defining points.”

“I have watched the 2018 CWG again and after doing so, I felt I could have done things in a better way. But that is in the past and I am now looking forward to Indonesia,” said Arpinder, who cleared 16.46 metres to finish fourth at Gold Coast.

In Jakarta, Arpinder will face tough competition in a field that will also include China’s Olympic bronze medallist Dong Bin. “I’m confident I can come away with a good result if I can do my best,” said Arpinder.

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