As Davinder Singh Kang lined up for his final javelin throw in the qualification round at London’s Olympic Stadium, not many expected him to progress. But for Kang — who became the first Indian to reach the javelin finals at the Worlds with a throw of 84.22m — qualifying was “no big deal”.
Competing against a world-class field that included Germans Johannes Vetter and Thomas Rohler, the Indian finished with the seventh best throw overall while the more-fancied compatriot Neeraj Chopra failed to advance. Chopra, the junior world record holder, managed a best throw of 82.26m, more than half a metre short of the automatic qualification mark of 83m. As for Kang, he not only had to battle a shoulder injury but a major “hit in reputation” on the road to London.
The thrower was tested positive for marijuana after an in-competition test in May. With marijuana being a specified substance under the WADA list, the athlete was spared a provisional ban. However, the incident was the beginning of a tumultuous few months for Kang. “Earlier when I used to Google my name, my training videos and articles on me would pop up but it’s all marijuana now,” Kang tells The Indian Express. To make matters worse, a non-profit company that had promised Davinder to help him with training expenses backed out and he is yet to repay a local supplements dealer. His family too was left distraught by the episode.
“My father read about in a local paper and called me up and asked, ‘ye marijuana kya hota hai’,” he says, adding that he consumed the drug inadvertently. Suffering from a heat stroke, he was advised to try some thandai (a milk-based summer drink) by an acquaintance. “My friend had got the mixture from his village. I know him well and trust him blindly. I am sure even he wasn’t aware it contained marijuana leaves. I never expected things to take such an ugly turn,” he says.
‘King Kang’, a popular figure at the Patiala national camp, saw his friends and juniors evade him after the incident. Some even poked fun, asking him sarcastically what marijuana was. Kang notes how the same people have got back in touch with congratulatory messages after his qualification.
Then, there were friends like shot putter Inderjeet Singh who backed and motivated him throughout. “He was one guy who spoke to me regularly and made sure I never lost heart. I was the toughest phase of my life.”
Kang’s personal best is 84.57m that he achieved in the first leg of the Athletics Grand Prix in Patiala. At last month’s Asian Athletics Championships held at Bhubaneswar, he muscled his way to bronze with a 83.29m throw as Neeraj bagged the gold.
The Sikh regiment junior commissioned officer does not have the best of techniques, though he makes up for it with the upper body strength. The field in London though is stronger still, with five 85-plus throws, including one 90 plus (Vetter), recorded during the qualifications. The maths, however, doesn’t bother Kang.
“I have a clear idea of what I am going to do. I will go all out from the very first throw. Just wait and watch, I can assure you that all my doubters and those who ridiculed me will be left with mouths wide-open after the finals. I really believe I can grab that medal,” he says. His claims appear tall and tough to believe. This wouldn’t be the first time though.