As a child growing up in the small village of Harsha Chinna near the Amritsar airport, Arpinder Singh was fascinated by the aircrafts taking off — the steady movement along the runway before gathering speed to soar into the sky. At his new training base in Chula Vista in California, the Asian Games gold medallist in the triple jump is giving wings to his dreams of leaping high and winning an Olympic medal. Arpinder’s initial training for the next two months focusses on the basics before his workload gathers steam to peak in run-up to the World Championships.
Currently being coached by Jeremy Fisher, one of the top jump coaches in the USA, Arpinder will return to India at the end of March for the Federation Cup. The first international event for Arpinder this year will be the Asian Track and Field meet to be held in Doha in April.
“I really want to undergo a high-intensity training program after the Asian Track and Field Meet to prepare for the World Championship (28 September-6 October). Within the first few weeks of my training here, I have struck a very good rapport with Fisher," says Arpinder in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
The 25-year-old registered his best jump of 16.77 metres to claim the gold in Asian Games, which was below his personal best of 17.17m attained in Lucknow in 2014. “My aim is to leap to 17.35m at the World Championships and I have plenty of time to work on it," opines the triple jumper.
Arpinder created a bit of flutter in the international stage when he followed up his Asian Games gold medal with a bronze at the Intercontinental Cup in Ostrava. “Though I have not been coached by Fisher before, I have been regularly interacting with him and sending him videos of my jumps. He had invited me to train with him earlier but I did not have the necessary support then to travel to the USA. Fisher is not someone who is in favour of completely overhauling the technique, but he has already asked me to make minor adjustments and this is already helping me."
The Korea-born coach is credited with shaping the career of Will Claye, who had the unique distinction of winning an Olympic silver medal in both the triple jump and long jump in London. Claye also won the triple jump silver medal in the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"Thanks to the cash awards after the Asian Games, I can now focus only on the sport without thinking about my finances. Life is more comfortable. More importantly, many of the youngsters from my village look up to me and wants to pursue athletics realising that there are handsome financial rewards if you are willing to work hard."
Arpinder tasted his first major success at the international level with a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2014. But this was followed by the darkest phase of his athletics career. A training stint in England under John Herbert proved to be catastrophic. “I could not adjust to the new coaching methods, the lifestyle and the food. My form suffered a freefall. When I could not qualify for the Olympics in 2016, I was written off. My national record was eclipsed. I did not know how I could come out of the slump. I took a break from the sport. For the next two months, I travelled all across Punjab just to take my mind away from triple jump. I gave up on my strict diet and started to eat junk food. I put on weight. Just when I realised that I could not sink any further, I decided to plot my comeback."
The road to redemption was not easy as he was asked to shift to Trivandrum at the national camp of the jumpers. “This period was challenging as I took time to adjust to the new surroundings. The food was different and I could not communicate with people because no one understood Hindi. But despite the hardships, I slowly managed to regain my form working under PB Jaikumar."
Arpinder heralded his stirring comeback by qualifying for the Commonwealth Games 2018 with a jump of 16.61m. Though he returned empty-handed from Gold Coast, the triple jumper proved he was in good form when he leapt to a distance of 17.09 metres at the Interstate Athletics Meet in Guwahati. This was one of the top jumps of the season by an Asian triple jumper and made Arpinder a strong medal contender in Jakarta.
“Asian Games was my most satisfying effort till date but there is plenty of hard work ahead because the Tokyo Olympic is my next big target. The Athletics Federation of India and the Union Sports Ministry have backed me and I will need to show improvement. Only if I produce results, they will be encouraged to fund more youngsters. So I want to be an athlete who will open the doors for more talented Indian athletes to train abroad."
Reigning world champion and Olympic gold medallist Christian Taylor of the USA (personal best of 18.21m) and Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Portugal (personal best 18.08m) are the two top triple jumpers who are once again expected to dominate the field in this year’s World Championships. Despite a dream 2018, Arpinder will need to raise his performance by several notches to come close to a podium finish.
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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2019 11:49:42 IST