Hoping to give his best shot in RIO

Inderjeet Singh celebrates on the podium after winning the bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games. He, however, is not happy with that performance. “I could have won the gold,” says the shot putter.-H. S. MANJUNATH

“My aim is to go past 21m soon. Then, I want to focus on that Olympic medal,” says shot putter Inderjeet Singh, who recently qualified for the Rio Olympics. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.

Inderjeet Singh looked rather pleased that hot afternoon in Mangaluru during the Federation Cup athletics meet recently. The pain on his left knee, from which puss was still oozing, because of an infection, was very much there. There was the bigger pain of being jobless at the age of 26, too. But, at that moment, he could afford to smile. He had just qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

He had done it in style, a few hours earlier, with a superb show at the Mangala Stadium on the opening day of the meet. The Rio qualifying standard for men’s shot put was 20.50m. His gold-medal winning effort was 20.65m.

It was his personal best, too. It was, in fact, for the third time in seven months that he was recording his personal best.

Inderjeet has set his sights on loftier goals. “I was delighted to qualify for the Oympics, that too on the very next day after the qualification window (May 1) opened. But my aim is to win an Olympic medal for India,” he said. “Participating at the Olympics just won’t be enough for me.”

Inderjeet is not happy with the bronze medal he had won at the Asian Games in Incheon last October. “I could have won the gold,” he said. “The conditions were not ideal for me. The competition had gone late into the night; I did not have the facilities to train for that.”

He is frustrated that athletes in India are not treated with the respect they deserve. “We have to fight for everything, be it facilities or coaches,” he said. “In spite of my achievements, I am jobless. It is very difficult for me to find the resources. Training for shot put is a very expensive affair.”

How did he get interested in shot put?

“It was while I was studying at the Delhi Public School in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, that I was first introduced to shot put,” he said. “I enjoyed the recognition athletics gave me at school and became serious about sport.”

The turning point came when he began to be coached by Pritam Singh, younger brother of Olympian Shakti Singh. “It was after starting to work with him that I evolved as an athlete,” he said. “I have been training under him for the last 10 years.”

Two years ago, Inderjeet made news when he won the silver at the Universiad in Kazan, Russia. He had done it with a throw of 19.70m; it was his personal best then.

“My aim is to go past 21m soon,” he said. “Then I want to focus on that Olympic medal.”