Arpinder Singh at home in the sand pit, on the ramp, and everything in between

Arpinder, who is quite an Instagram star, is a man of the moment. A gold in the 2018 Asian Games sent his stock skyrocketing and he followed that up by clinching bronze for the Asia-Pacific team at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava earlier this month.

Arpinder Singh competing in the Men's Triple Jump in the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic.   -  Getty Images

If there is a slip between the hop, skip and the jump, Arpinder Singh is best placed to tell you all about it.

Success has come sandwiched between struggles that test most athletes, but the 25-year-old triple jumper from Punjab, whose career has swung from Amritsar to London to Thiruvananthapuram, is not most athletes. He is shy in media presence, but the triple jump pit and social media are his playgrounds.

More than 12 years ago, the young boy was not sure what he wanted to be as an athlete. He tried the 100m, 400m and high jump. Soon he realised he was not mastering any of those. Arpinder's father, otherwise supportive, too appeared worried about his future.

This was the time when D.S. Bal, a coach associated with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in Amritsar, came into his life. The seasoned coach advised the youngster to try the triple jump. Initially a bit scared, Arpinder honed his skills. In 2007, he won his first medal at the National School Games.

Still, he was not too confident of pursuing it as a career, but fell in love with the sport. His father had bouts of annoyance and misgivings, but supported him. “Failures taught me that if your forte is not on solid base, you cannot do anything,” Arpinder, who was in Mumbai to walk the ramp for the launch of Godrej Cinthol's new grooming range for men, said on Tuesday.

READ | In pursuit of gold, Mary Kom lost 2kg in 4 hours

Arpinder, who is quite an Instagram star, with stylish pictures splashed across his account — many of those highlighting his chiselled looks and ripped body — is a man of the moment. His posts often carry hashtags #bobstyle and #blessed. He is unlike other, more self-involved — bordering on diffident — Indian athletes.

A gold in the 2018 Asian Games has sent his stock skyrocketing. He clinched India’s first men’s triple jump gold in 48 years, with a jump of 16.77m. He followed up on his Asian Games success by clinching bronze for the Asia-Pacific team at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava earlier this month.

As the flashbulbs go off, as he is sought, at the promotional event, there is little talk of his struggles and disappointments. All that is behind-the-scenes stuff.

100

Arpinder Singh in action in the Men's Triple Jump Final at the 2018 Asian Games.   -  REUTERS

 

Arpinder admits the journey has not been easy. “There was a time when many people felt that I would not be able to do much in life. That would even put my father under pressure, but thankfully, things are settling down now.”

Before he delves into life's hard knocks, the athlete strikes a confident note, with eyes set on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“My target is to win gold in Tokyo. The pressure will be more than the Asian Games. But if I can give my best, I can win a medal. This year also I jumped 17.09m (achieved during the National Inter-State Championships in June, which had put him at number three in the Asian rankings). If I can maintain this, I can win a medal at the World Championships next year too,” said Arpinder.

ALSO READ | Chanu, Sathish, Ragul to miss World Weightlifting Championship

Going beyond 17m is not new for Arpinder. He had jumped 17.17m in 2014 to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, where he bagged bronze.

Confidence high and funded, he headed to the UK to train. This is where the slip came. Not what the then 21-year-old had in mind.

Training under jumps guru John Herbert, Arpinder had to change his style. Dismantling his primary technique sent his performances plummeting. He missed out on a berth for Rio Olympics 2016.

But the UK stint taught him important lessons. “The coach changed my technique and the federation changed. I have learnt a lot from those days. When things don’t go your way, people tend to ignore you, but now that things are going smoothly, I want to maintain that,” he said.

“Every coach has a different way of thinking and I trained hard. That actually helped me.” With the Tokyo Olympics just a year-and-a-half away, he will not travel to the UK for training. “If you are travelling abroad, you need at least two years to train properly. But there is not much time now.”

100

Arpinder Singh (L) at a press conference for the launch of Cinthols new men's grooming range.   -  Shashi Ashiwal

 

At the Asian Games village, he shared his room with shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor, who smashed the Games record and also set a national record with a 20.75m throw to bag gold.

ALSO READ | Didn’t expect Arjuna this year: Hima Das

Arpinder admits the shot putter’s gold helped him. “He motivated me a lot. We have been roommates for a long time, so when he won gold early, it boosted my confidence.”

Arpinder has not been home for the last six months and has not been able to show his medals to his family members.

He stepped back from London during a time when his performances nosedived and he endured smirks from critics, who ridiculed him as more style (Instagram posts) than substance. Later, he turned to Thiruvananthapuram to regain his mojo and rebuild his old technique.  

“I have been training in Kerala, so the family also misses me. After returning to Delhi from the Asian Games, I went for the IAAF event and after that I again went to Thiruvananthapuram for National Open Athletics.”

He plans to head home after the National Open Athletics Championships (September 25-28) in Bhubaneswar.