Six years ago when a young Anuj Sangwan boarded the bus to Panchkula from his village, Mitalu, near Bhiwani, the young athlete knew that it will be a hard time for him in the city. While his father Raj Kumar Sangwan died in a road accident in 2006, his mother worked as a helper in the village anganwadi and Sangwan did not even know how to manage his expenses to train at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex.
Last week, Anuj won the gold medal in the decathlon event in U-20 category in Junior National Athletics Championship in Ranchi, Jharkhand, and as the 19-year-old youngster resumed his training at Panchkula, the Haryana player remembered his early days in the sport.
“My father owned two-acre farm. When he died after a road accident, it was a difficult time for the whole family. My mother Sumitra Devi started working as a helper in the village anganwadi to support the family. My father wanted me to be a kabaddi player but I started athletics on seeing an athletics competition at the village. Initially I trained along with senior player Rohit before deciding to train under Arvind Chahal sir at Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula. In 2015, the athletics nursery was stopped and it meant that I had to take a room on rent along with two other trainees apart from bearing the diet expenses. Winning the gold medal in Ranchi is a special feeling and if my father were alive today, it would have meant the world for him,” said Anuj, who is a student of BA-I at DAV College, Chandigarh.
A bronze medal in the U-14 triathlon event in the Junior National Athletics Championship in Lucknow in 2012 would mean that Sangwan’s interest in multidisciplinary events in athletics grew. The youngster won the bronze medal in pentathlon event in Junior National Athletics Championship in 2013 before winning the gold medal in pentathlon event in the 2014 edition of the championships. But an injury followed by illness meant that the youngster remained away from the sport for more than two years.
On his return, Sangwan made a U-18 record in decathlon event with 6,618 points in Junior National Championship in Vijaywada last year. In Ranchi, Sangwan gathered 6,582 points in U-20 category to win the gold.
“I knew about sprints while training at my village. When I shifted to Panchkula, coach Arvind Chahal made me train for multidisciplinary events. The bronze medal in 2012 in Lucknow boosted my confidence a lot. As I competed in pentathlon events, I wanted to compete in events like decathlon too before the injury happened. The cash awards for the junior national medals helped me a lot during the tough time to meet my expenses. Making the then U-18 record last year was important for me after the injury. I often watch videos of former world record holder Ashton Eaton of USA and my next target is to win a medal in next year’s National Games,” said Anju, who also idolises 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Neeraj Chopra.
Sangwan also trains at Liveit Sports Centre under coach Arvind Chahal at Dhakoli, Zirakpur, and the oach believes that Anuj’s biggest strength has been his ability to make comebacks.
“When I first saw him in 2012, I was impressed with the way he competed in different events. That’s why I decided to make him compete in events like triathlon and other events. In event like decathlon, an athlete required all-round skills and Anuj’s stregenth has been his confidence and ability to bounce back. In Ranchi, his timing in 400 M was not good but he made a comeback in pole vault and javelin throw,” Chahal said.