Arjun, one of the country’s rising stars in men’s discus throw and a silver medallist at the 2010 Youth Olympics, has been persuaded to try his hand at shot put, an event Ukraine-born throws coach Yuri Minkov believes the 22-year-old has a greater chance of winning medals at the international level.
Arjun produced his personal best of 58.51 metres at the Federation Cup in Mangalore in May, but his relatively short stature — he stands at six foot while national record holder Vikas Gowda is 6’9” — and short hand span put him at a disadvantage, Minkov reckons. Following Minkov’s observation, the Athletics Federation of India formed a seven-member committee headed by JS Saini, the former chief national coach and Dronacharya award winner, which met in the first week of August to discus the feasibility of Arjun switching events.
The committee concluded that Arjun should train in shot put for three-to-four months and at the end of which his progress should be assessed. A final decision on which event he must pursue would be taken after that.“I have had two sessions of shot put training over the past week at the national camp in Patiala under Minkov. My best throw in the shot put is 18.30 metres. The plan is to see how well I progress in shot put and will take a call by December as to which event I must continue competing in. Currently I am training in both events,” Arjun said. To make a case for Arjun shifting from discus to shot put, his parameters were compared with London Olympics bronze medalist American Resse Hoffa, who is an inch shorter than Arjun.
The Indian was better than the American when it came to strength (snatch, full squat, power clean) while he was faster too in the 30 metre sprint, during drills conducted by Minkov.
For example, in the full squat, Arjun managed 300 kilograms, while Hoffa, according to statistics presented at the committee meeting, averaged at 255 kgs.
While Arjun bettered Hoffa on physical parametres, the next obvious question was whether he would be able to make a smooth transition from discus throw to shot put.
Minkov, who had made Arjun perform a standing throw which was measured at 18.36 metres, believed the transition would be easy. Bahadur Singh, the chief national coach, cited the example of others who had made the switch.
The committee also came to the conclusion that if discus thrower Vikas Gowda, who towers over Arjun but has crossed 66 metres just once, a mark not good enough for an Olympic medal, then the youngster is better off in shot put as he has ‘world-class’ power and is not facing a disadvantage when it comes to height. The topper in shot put this year — Joe Kovacs of the United States who is 183 centimetres tall — has registered a throw of 22.56 in 2015.
Out of comfort zone
If Arjun makes the switch he will be moving out of his comfort zone.
The Delhi-based athlete has been propped-up as the next big thing in discus throw so much so that he was included in the team for the Asian Athletics Championships in Wuhan in June, though he failed to meet qualifying guidelines.
The committee which met to study the feasibility of Arjun switching events comprised Bahadur Singh, Radhakrishnan Pillay (the deputy chief coach), Minkov, Andrey Filiminun (recovery expert) and Bahadur Singh Saggu and Shakti Singh (both former Asian Games gold medalists in shot put).