Arpinder hails rivalry with Renjith Maheshwari

Speaking at a felicitation ceremony here, Arpinder acknowledged the “benefit” of an intense competition among athletes in the Nationals and a “target” that motivates athletes when competing with long-time rivals.

Speaking at a felicitation ceremony here, Arpinder acknowledged the “benefit” of an intense competition among athletes in the Nationals and a “target” that motivates athletes when competing with long-time rivals.   -  VIVEK TRIPATHI

Ahead of his Asian Games campaign, triple jumper Arpinder Singh had been encouraged to bring home a medal by National rival and fellow triple jumper Renjith Maheshwari.

Speaking at a felicitation ceremony here, Arpinder acknowledged the “benefit” of an intense competition among athletes in the Nationals and a “target” that motivates athletes when competing with long-time rivals.

Arpinder had broken Maheshwari’s National record in 2014, but the latter toppled it to qualify for the Rio Olympics a couple of years later.

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“In the Nationals, the competition is intense and that benefits a lot. There is also a target — I have to beat them in competitions. Now, [Maheshwari] is injured; I hope he recovers soon. He guides me a lot. He had told me ‘you should bring a medal home’ and I hoped that I match my National record,” Arpinder said here after having clinched the triple jump gold, India’s first in 48 years, at the Asian Games.

His final jump measurement (16.77 metres) was well below his target – 17 metres. Although Arpinder had expected to do well, he faltered a little due to the hot and humid conditions in Jakarta.

“The weather in Jakarta was quite hot and humid. I had cramps in my body. And so my last three jumps were affected and I couldn’t perform as well as I had targeted. It wasn’t just me, other athletes were also affected. They were talking in between their jumps, as the body wasn’t recovering very quickly,” he said.

Sudha Singh, the silver medallist in the 3000m steeplechase, concurred. “Conditions were really tough in Jakarta. It was very humid there. Within five minutes of warm-up, we felt we wouldn’t be able to run. It was only during the race that we felt we could run,” she said.

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Targeting gold to make amends for her narrow fourth-place finish at the 2014 Asian Games, Sudha fell three seconds short of clinching it in Jakarta. “But I’m happy with the silver,” she said.

Also satisfied with his performance that garnered a silver medal, in the men’s 800m, was Jinson Johnson.

“My finish at the 800m was good, but later I came to know everyone expected gold from me. It’s not their fault because for five years in the Nationals I was doing well. Nobody had expected this, but I was very satisfied with my performance because despite my first lap being slow (53s), I made up for it in the second lap (also 53s). To maintain this speed is usually tough,” he reasoned.

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He added, “But [Manjit Singh] performed really well. If you see the video [of the race], Manjit overtook me in the last lap. I was really happy also because an Indian top two in the 800m was rare.”

Johnson, however, had the bigger prize two days later to back this effort. This time, he defeated his compatriot, who lagged behind in the fourth spot. It was one of India’s seven gold medals in athletics at the Games, by far the most in any discipline.