Shot-putter short changed!

Inderjeet Singh with his silver medal. Along with him are gold winner Valeriy Kokoev and bronze medallist Alexander Lesnoi.-PTI

Shot-putter Inderjeet Singh has created history by winning the first-ever medal for Indian universities at the World Universities Games, but his effort has not been recognised adequately. J.R. Shridharan has this report.

Inderjeet Singh, a shot putter, won the first-ever medal — a silver — in the history of Indian universities in the World Universities Games at Kazan (Russia) recently. This meet, incidentally, is considered as the second biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics. The strapping Punjabi made a podium finish by throwing the iron ball to a distance of 19.70m.

But Inderjeet’s overwhelming effort got a tepid response as he could get just over Rs. 1 lakh — Rs. 59,000 (including a kit) from Maharshi Dayanand University, his alma mater, and another Rs. 50,000 from C. B. R. Prasad, a former weightlifter and chairman of the CBR Sports Academy near Vijayawada.

“Inderjeet can win a medal for India in the 2016 Olympics at Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) if he is adopted by any one of the talent search outfits in the country. He will certainly improve his performance as he is hungry for success and pursuing shot put relentlessly for 13 years,” said Y. Kishore, physical director with the Guntur-based Acharya Nagarjuna University, who went as a delegate with the Indian athletics contingent to Kazan.

Senior Sports Authority of India athletics coach Vinayak Prasad, who went with the contingent as the men’s coach, said that Inderjeet possessed the quintessential height (6’4’’), weight (125kg), muscle formation and the effective rotation style to pose a threat to the best of shot-putters in the world. “Shot putters mature with age. The top shot-putters in the world are in their early and mid-30s. What Inderjeet needs is timely help and sustained support for three years. He needs money to meet supplement requirement and towards coaches and physiotherapist expenses,” Prasad said.

Inderjeet, a trainee under Pritam Singh and Shakthi Singh, sounded despondent when he said that he had sold his shop and taken loans from all and sundry to keep his passion alive. “It is increasingly getting difficult for me train as I do not have money,” the shot-putter said with a tinge of sadness.

The Ministry of Sports has been awarding cash prizes to medallists in Olympics, Asian, Commonwealth Games and World Championship, but it has ignored the exploits of this athlete at the World Universities meet.

“Probably the Government is under the impression that the issue (cash awards) will be taken care of by the Universities Grants Commission (UGC). Athletes like Inderjeet require advanced training to prepare for the Olympics. They need all the financial support from the university system,” felt Kishore, who, incidentally submitted a letter to the UGC Chairman Ved Prakash along with the ANU Vice-Chancellor K. Viyyanna Rao.

In fact, the medal at Kazan came to Inderjeet the hard way as he took part in the event without proper shoes. “After the Asian Track and Field Championships at Pune (where he finished fourth for his 19.31m effort), I rushed to Kazan and in the process my baggage was misplaced at Dubai airport. I reached the stadium without proper shoes. I took part in the event by wearing shoes shorter than my original size.”

In fact, the die-hard vegetarian, drew the attention of the critics as his personal best performance of 19.70 metres at the World Universities meet was better than the gold medal effort by Sultan Abdulmajeed Alheb of Saudi Arabia (19.68m) at the Pune event.