Tajinderpal Singh Toor had broken his own shot put national record and Asian record with a massive throw of 21.77m under the floodlights here at the Inter-State Championships.
While Tajinder was pleased with the outcome of a phenomenal feat, there were no over-the-top celebrations. “I am not happy,” he says. “My dadi (grandmother) passed away three days back.” The loss was so personal for Tajinder that he considered skipping the Inter-State meet, which is the qualifier for the Asian Games.
“At first, I didn’t feel like coming here but it was compulsory for everyone to come here and play. I just wanted to get in a few throws and leave,” says Tajinder.
In the final, his first attempt was a big 21.09m – no one else in the field got to even 20m -- followed by a foul throw, which was long too. When he threw his third attempt, he knew it was a record as soon as it went past the 21m mark.
When the official reading was announced, he let out a roar and looked to the skies with his hands raised in thanks.
“When I realised I broke the record, I got a little emotional. My eyes went moist and I was thinking about my grandmother. I want to dedicate this competition to my dadi,” he says, acknowledging the role she played early in his journey. “My dadi was the one who used to support me a lot before I had a job. When I was in Canada, she would send me money and help me a lot. I never had any sponsorship then.”
It has been a tough couple of years for Tajinder with injury setbacks and personal tragedies. After his previous national record throw (21.49m) in 2021, there were high hopes for him at the Tokyo Olympics.
But a fracture to his throwing hand in the lead-up to the Games meant he ended the campaign on a disappointing note.
The 28-year-old had missed the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games last year after surgery to his fractured throwing hand. Then in December, his wife had to undergo an abortion due to a complication in the pregnancy. Despite all the misfortunes, Tajinder believes the higher power above him will lead him the way.
“ Jhatke tho lagte hai ji [setbacks do happen] then god gives his hand and pulls you up,” he says.
Tajinderpal stands at 6’4” and weighs 150 kg. He wears size 13 shoes, which he orders from overseas, and throws a 7.2kg iron ball. While his frame can intimidate many, Tajinder considers himself to be a gentle giant.
“People are afraid of me and think I am very rude. They think I am aggressive but I am only that way on the field and in weight training. Otherwise, I am very soft,” he laughs.
Tajinder wasn’t a big man while growing up back in his village of Khosa Pando in Punjab. His lasting memory from school is these words of his teacher: ‘Tajinderpal Singh, get out of my class’.
“Studies would just go over my head. My teacher used to beat me a lot over my studies and I would just stand outside,” says Tajinder, who hails from a family of farmers. “I felt I wanted to do farming or work in the sun outside. Never felt like studying.”
Before shot put, cricket was the sport he tried his hand at.
“I used to play local cricket in my village but my dad would yell at me and say ‘What are you doing playing cricket? Play some individual events instead’,” he remembers.
Tajinder, who writes with his right hand, uses his left to throw, says he didn’t even know what he was doing when he first picked up an iron ball. “My throwing technique was all wrong and people used to wonder why was I rotating the wrong way because I was left-handed,” he says.
Looking back on his achievements in shot put – Asian Games gold, Asian Championships gold and Asian indoor championships gold among others – though Tajinder would not have many complaints.
As he heads home from here to grieve his late grandmother, Tajinder would hope the testing times are behind him and look forward to defending his Asian Games gold in Hangzhou in three months’ time.
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