When discus-thrower Navjeet Dhillon returned with a bronze from the 2014 Junior World Championship in Eugene, Oregon, to her hometown, Amritsar, she was given a hero’s welcome, replete with drum beats, garlands and sweets. Her brother, Jasdeep, rushed towards her and hugged her.
But Jasdeep and his parents have had to wait for a long time to repeat that sort of feverish celebrations. Now, having claimed bronze in Gold Coast, they have a reason. The reason for the barren run–wherein the then bespectacled athlete, who was transitioning into the senior level-Jasdeep reasons: “Click nahi hua.” It was a phase she simply couldn’t harness her potential.
Expectations were always high from the youngster but she just could not perform up to her billing. “She had some technical flaws and also needed to work on strengthening her core muscles,” says Jasdeep, who doubles up as her coach and mentor during competitions.
These were exactly the areas that Navjeet, 23, worked on this season. Her training stint under Dutch throw legend Rutger Smith in Los Angeles last summer refined her skills. Jasdeep believes she has ironed out the flaws that were hindering her from giving her best.
Sports runs deep in the Dhillon household. Father Jaspal Singh is a throw coach, who accompanies his daughter to the national camps. Mother Kuldeep Kaur was part of the 1986 Asian Games’ bronze-winning hockey squad in Seoul. And Jasdeep, a shot putter, is a silver medallist at the 2016 South Asian Games. Even at the dinner table, the topics they discuss hardly veer away from sports. “I don’t like to talk about anything else. Our lives revolve around sports. Ghar se ground, ground se ghar,” says father Jaspal.
Jasdeep,27, is invariably present at all national events, primarily because of his participation as well, to boost her younger sister. Jasdeep can be seen shouting out advice from the sidelines in a stern tone. But the intensity of his tone should not be misread. “We have really strong bonding. During my events she is there to advice and likewise I help her whenever possible. I also motivate her whenever she’s down. But we do fight at times and it’s mainly for the for the television remote,” says Jasdeep, chuckling.
Mother Kuldeep is eagerly awaiting her daughter’s return and will prepare a homemade feast for her, which will include Navjeet’s favourite, paneer bhurji. “She maintains a strict diet and has stayed away from a lot of her favourite food,”says Kuldeep. For Kuldeep, her daughter’s bronze holds more value than her own Asiad medal.
Jaspal’s phone has been ringing incessantly. Family, colleagues and former athletes have been flooding his phone with congratulatory messages. “I am waiting for my daughter to return and this time the celebrations will be grander,” says Jaspal. And you could expect the loud celebrations that await her at the Amritsar railway station.