Immediately after the men’s triple-jump event finished at a rain-soaked Hampden Park, India’s Arpinder Singh busied himself with packing-up his kit. There was no celebration, nothing to suggest that he had won a bronze medal at his very first Commonwealth Games appearance.
As Arpinder threw his wet singlet and his many towels into his hold-all, a bunch of Indians in the stand right behind him hollered out his name. Surprised, the 21-year-old turned back, a shy smile creeping on to his face. A few minutes later, the tricolor was thrown around his shoulder as Arpinder went about accepting the congratulations. It ended, though, just as quickly as it began.
Arpinder, whose first leap of 16.63 metres got him the bronze, said he was very disappointed by his performance. Having leapt 17.17 metres at the Nationals in Lucknow, held just a month before the Commonwealth Games, he said he had been confident he could have done the same at a packed Hampden Park.
“I know I should be a little happy, I have won the bronze, but my jumping was just not making me happy today. My first attempt was good, but after having jumped 17.17 back home, I was expecting to hit the 17 mark, at least,” he said.
The 2006 Melbourne Games silver-medallist Khotso Mokoena had all but ended the fight for gold as early as his second attempt. The lanky South African jumped 17.20 metres to strengthen his vice-like grip at the top. No other jumper even came close to the 17-meter mark, with Nigeria’s Tosin Oke taking silver with a jump 16.84 metres.
REST AT PAR
With rain and medium-to-strong wind being a constant on Saturday night, Arpinder began strongly, executing his first four jumps flawlessly before fouling his last two attempts.
The rest of the field was star-studded but barring Mokoena, they were at par with each other. Even Olympic medallist Phillips Idowu of England only managed to execute one jump, fouling the other five. Arpinder says competing in such a strong field in alien conditions and managing a medal was encouraging.
“The weather in Lucknow, where I did the 17.17, wasn’t that great either. I don’t think the weather played a part in my performance today. I didn’t have the greatest of qualifying events and then the pressure to not foul my jumps, perhaps, forced me into a shell,” he said.
“I don’t know what was going wrong. I tried talking to the coaches whether they could see something that I wasn’t doing well. But mostly, it is about small adjustments. A coach who has seen you at your best is, perhaps, the only person who can suggest these small changes,” he said.
“Pannu sahab has known and understood me ever since I began doing this event. When a coach has been with you for such a long time, he understands the minutest things (that are) wrong with your technique. I was under a bit of pressure coming into the final because of my fouls in the qualifying event. After my first jump, I was confident of doing well but I just couldn’t get the right guidance,” he lamented.
The 21-year old from Harsh Chinna village near Amritsar, the second of three brothers born to a retired army-man, said repeated requests to the Athletics Federation of India to include his coach in the Indian contingent had gone unheeded.
“I have requested the federation a few times, but every time they told me there was no room for another coach. If Pannu sahab was here, the result could have been different,” he shrugged.