Tokyo 2020 qualification out of the way, Shivpal eyes bigger targets

Under the watchful eyes of coach Uwe Hohn, Shivpal has been concentrating on his off-season training that places a lot more stress on non-throwing fitness.

Indian javelin thrower Shivpal Singh has qualified for his maiden Olympic Games in Tokyo this year by breaching the qualification mark at an event in South Africa.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Last year this time, Shivpal Singh was going through his routine away from the spotlight at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, preparing for the Federation Cup. Despite consistently encouraging performances, Shivpal, who hails from a family of throwers in Banaras, had been in the shadow of the brilliant Neeraj Chopra.

He qualified for the Asian Championships a week later back then, breaching the 80.75m mark twice through the competition. On Tuesday, he crossed another milestone, this time qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics with a throw of 85.47m. If the former was in the presence of a crowd that included athletes and top Athletics Federation of India (AFI) officials, the latter came away from the spotlight, at the ACNW League Meeting at Potchefstroom in South Africa. Interestingly, it’s the same event where Neeraj made the cut more than a month back.

The feeling of relief, though is the same. “It feels really, really great to finally get the monkey off the back. The pressure of qualifying is finally gone and it's a big relief. I had expected to do this long back but a combination of events and circumstances meant I had to wait for so long, but better now than never,” Shivpal told Sportstar in an exclusive chat from his training base in Potchefstroom.

Under the watchful eyes of coach Uwe Hohn, Shivpal along with a couple of other throwers has been concentrating on his off-season training that places a lot more stress on non-throwing fitness. He had done the same last year before the Federation Cup but while the focus was on rehabilitation then – recovering from a shoulder injury – it was more intensive this time around.

READ| Javelin thrower Shivpal Singh qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

“We have been here since January 7. Last time there was a lot of weight training, running, jumping and other off-the-field training but very little throwing. This time there is equal emphasis on throws training,” he explained, adding that the training is starkly different from what athletes undergo in India.

“We have worked hard on everything – technique, exposure and explosive strength, fitness. We have regular slacklining sessions in the evening. Apne desh me to pata hi nahi hota bahut se logon ko in sab ke bare me ya javelin me ye sab kitna important hai (most people back home are not even aware of these things and how they are important in training for a javelin thrower). It is the best way to develop so many things – strong ankles, strong core, front and back, balance, moving forward and backwards etc. The best in the world – (Germans) Johannes Vetter, Thomas Rohler – have been doing it for years,” he quipped.

Shivpal’s best-ever outing came at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha, a second place finish with a personal best of 86.23m.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Shivpal’s best-ever outing came at the 2019 Asian Championships in Doha, a second-place finish with a personal best of 86.23m. That would have helped him crack Tokyo had the event been a week later. “I was feeling really good then. I missed the qualifying period by a week but was confident of doing it soon after. But then things went downhill. At the Diamond League (in Oslo) I had back problems and competed with painkillers for 80.87m. After that it kept slipping,” he admitted.

Related | Neeraj Chopra qualifies for Tokyo Olympics 2020 with 87.86m throw

There had been a lot of talk around Indian athletes’ extended stay in Europe with less-than-impressive results, including the throwers. Shivpal registered 79.69m at the Ostrava Golden Spike, 76.90m in Poland and 76.90m in Finland before managing just 78.97m at the World Championships. He insisted it was because of too much competition.

“We would be competing in 2-3 events every week. The body would constantly be loaded for throwing too many times with no time or chance for recovery. They were not very tough events and the coaches kept telling us to throw just like in training but that is not possible all the time. There was also a lot of travelling – from Oslo to other places, sometimes 6-7 hours by road. We did tell coaches but there was no way anyone could have managed that load,” he reasoned.

Those outings, in fact, only backfired with Shivpal losing government support under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). He has now managed to get back partial support. “I am confident of doing better in the coming days. The focus is on Diamond League and Federation Cup now, this competition was only an attempt to qualify without too much focus or effort on the result. The lower body was also a bit tighter, it will loosen up more. I think I have been sanctioned 25,000 per month only last month, hope for full support and exposure now,” Shivpal signed off.

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