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Back in spotlight 

Jakarta, August 29

Triple jumper Arpinder Singh gets cagey after being asked exactly when he switched allegiance from Punjab to Haryana. He praises his current state as the one where the government has developed an environment for the benefit of the sportspersons. He mentions the prize money too. Then he says that Punjab, when he left, wasn’t encouraging his ilk. Originally from Harsha Chhina, Amritsar, he calls Sonepat his hometown these days. 

If all goes to plan, then the 25-year-old will get Rs 2 crore in prize money from the Haryana government after he bagged the triple jump gold here today. His third attempt of the night — 16.77 metres — was enough to give India its first gold medal in triple jump after a gap of 48 years. Mohinder Singh Gill won the last gold with a jump of 16.11 in 1970.

Arpinder, who is now employed with the ONGC, admitted that his performance wasn’t up to the mark. He could only register three legitimate jumps. After registering a foul in his first attempt, Arpinder jumped 16.58m to go into the lead.

He then bettered this mark to 16.77m, which ensured the gold, before fouling his last three attempts. “My performance wasn’t great, I am not happy with it. But I have won a gold medal so it is alright now,” he said. “I was going for the national record (17.30m) here but I got dehydrated, so my last three jumps went awry. My personal best is 17.17m; I thought I would do better here but then I failed my last three attempts as my calves were hurting.”

Dad’s dream

There are two significant personalities that are responsible for making a triple jumper out of Arpinder. His father, Jagbir Singh, who played kabaddi during his time in the Army, wanted his son to take up sports. “He was ready to do anything to help me become a sportsman,” Arpinder recalled.

So he started as a 100 metres sprinter. He switched to 200m, then to 400m, and even to long jump. But his father’s efforts of seeing his son become an athlete of some repute weren’t bearing fruits. “I failed miserably. But my father kept faith in me,” he said.

But a chance meeting with Sports Authority of India coach DS Bhal changed his life. “Bhal sir thought I could do well in triple jump. I wasn’t interested to be honest. I didn’t know anything about triple jump then,” he said.

A year later, Arpinder won his first medal, a bronze at the School Nationals. His first big podium finish came at the 2013 Asian Championships where he finished third. It was followed by a third place finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

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