Rooms in the sports hostels at NIS, Patiala, are not permanently assigned to athletes. So, much like schoolchildren, who scribble their names on their desks, many of the athletes try and leave a mark in their rooms during their time there, so that the next batch knows who occupied the space before them.
Triple jumper Arpinder Singh was also greeted with such scribbles when he stepped into number 16 at the Dhyanchand hostel. Siddhanth Thingalaya, the current national record holder in the 110m hurdles, had inked his name on one of the walls. So too had Joseph Abraham, the national record holder in the 400m hurdles and defending Asian Games gold medallist, who had also added the fact that he is an Arjuna awardee.
Arpinder hasn’t scrawled anything on the walls yet. What he does have is a piece of paper, stuck above his bed. It is a countdown calendar to the Commonwealth Games. The chart begins a month before his event on August 1. On each of the days leading up to D-Day, Arpinder has listed his jumps in practice — steadily increasing in magnitude. Under August 2 — the day of the triple jump final — is the target for Glasgow — 17.35m.
To add some perspective to the distance, 17.35m is nearly equivalent to a DTC low-floor bus and a couple of autos laid end to end. At the last Commonwealth Games, the best jump by an Indian was 17.07m. It fetched Renjith Maheshwary the bronze with what was then the national record. The gold was decided at 17.16m Arpinder’s chart and its target would thus have been fodder for laughter had it not been for the fact that he has already leapt beyond 17.17m only last month, at the inter-state championships in Lucknow.
The leap not only shattered Renjith’s record by 10cm, it is also the best jump this year at the Commonwealth and Asian levels. It puts Arpinder among the top-seven jumpers of the world this season.
“Considering the fact that he has already jumped the best in the Commonwealth this year, our hopes are certainly on him that he will win a medal in Glasgow,” says national athletics chief coach Bahadur Singh.
The chart with the 17.35m target isn’t the first one that Arpinder has made. Tucked underneath his bed is one that was made a month before the inter-state meet. His goal then was 17.13m.
While Arpinder is being seen as Indian athletics big hope at the Commonwealth Games and beyond, the 21-year old from Harsh Chinna village near Amritsar recalls how this wasn’t always the case.
Four years ago it was Renjith continued…