Under an overbearing morning sun, Arpinder Singh is trying to run on the athletics track at the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) at Vijayanagara.
Trying to, because of the red harness around his waist with straps fastened on the back of each of his leg which is making things difficult for the triple jumper.
It's a contraption with a simple purpose. "The activator belt helps you activate your glutes. This elastic band forces you to run with proper body position. If you don't, you fall," explains Frenchman Antony Yaich, the chief athletics coach at IIS, who also specialises in jumps.
It has been just over 10 days that Arpinder has been training at IIS, but it is the first time he's running with the harness strapped to him.
— Amit Kamath (@jestalt) May 9, 2019
"When I used to run, my back kick was too much. It was not the right running posture. That was also affecting my speed. So to bring that under control, Yaich made me use the harness," Arpinder tells Firstpost.
Here's another angle of it. pic.twitter.com/ffthQoa078
— Amit Kamath (@jestalt) May 9, 2019
The Asian Games gold medallist was supposed to have been training under Jeremy Fischer in Chula Vista. However, Arpinder says he is still waiting to hear from the authorities on his proposal to train under Fischer for 150 days under the Target Olympic Podium scheme.
"I had sent a proposal with all my training and competition plans under TOPs to go train under Fischer. I wanted them to send me there for five months.
"I was originally told by SAI that I would be sent on 1 or 2 April. But that approval never came. If they are not sending me, they should let me know that they are rejecting my proposal. Then at least I can plan alternatively," says Arpinder, who spent two months under Fischer before coming to India for the Federation Cup in March, where he could only manage a 16.34m.
"When I came back in March for the Federation Cup, I couldn't perform well. I wanted to go back immediately, in March itself. I spent two months in Patiala (at NIS) thinking that the approval will come soon. But that approval has still not come.
"In Patiala, there was neither a coach nor a training partner. So it was getting a little difficult. I was also missing a lot of things facilities-wise. At some point, I realised that I had wasted away too much time in Patiala waiting for the approval. At this rate, I wouldn't be able to do anything. So then two weeks ago, I came to IIS," adds Arpinder.
Repeated calls to SAI officials on Wednesday for their version went unanswered.
For Arpinder, this is just another twist in an already twisted career path.
Before the Rio Olympics, he moved to London to better his technique and qualify for his first Games. He was unable to do either. Then, before the Commonwealth Games last year, he worked for a significant period under national jumps coach Bedros Bedrosian before moving out after the duo had differences. (Bedrosian quit in October 2018 after many jumpers chose not to train under him. However, he was re-hired a few months later. He was in Thiruvananthapuram while Arpinder spent two months in Patiala.) Arpinder won gold at the Asian Games last year but was far from his best at the Federation Cup.
Now he's hoping that under Yaich, he can finally find his stride.
"Yaich and the IIS are both working well for me. He's a good coach, he explains everything in detail. Now even if the approval comes (for him to train under Fischer), I'd like to train with Yaich. It's not like I was fixated on going to train in the USA. I wanted performances. If it comes by working in India, then what's wrong? I've been a triple jumper for the past 10-12 years. So in 10 days, you get an idea of how a coach can improve you and what benefits you can get out of it," says Arpinder before adding, "The good thing about Yaich is that he understands that there are only a few months left for the World Championships. If we change everything, my performance will be affected. We're changing only the biggest mistakes in my technique."
Shorter run up, faster approach
Among the things Arpinder has changed in the 10 days he has spent Yaich is his run-up, which has been shortened from 42m to 40m. Yaich also believes that Arpinder can jump further if he can start his routines with more explosive pace.
"He has already learnt a lot of new things in these few days like how to sprint faster and how to use the legs. He's like 'okay, I didn't know this and I didn't know that.' So I'm surprised when he discovers new things at the age of 26. The focus with him is also on upper body and balance while jumping ― he's always leaning back or leaning forward," says Yaich. The Frenchman had been Praveen Chitravel's coach when the 17-year-old claimed gold at the Federation Cup earlier this year pipping strong favourite Arpinder.
"Arpinder is very strong, but he doesn't have that much explosivity. With Arpinder, there are a lot of things to change. But we have to be smart. It's going to take time to come together. And we don't have time as he's already 26. Right now we're trying to maximise his speed. He's not a very fast guy. We have also tweaked his running approach. Earlier, it used to be 42m, now it has come down to 40m simply by changing his technique. We changed the pattern, but he still takes 18 strides. Earlier, he used to over-stride, which is to say that he used to have long strides. This was the first change we did," adds Yaich.
As per the Frenchman, Arpinder needs to focus on producing maximum speed in his first six steps. Arpinder's original style was to start slowly and then try and accelerate on the last few strides.
"That's not efficient. Look at the best triple jumpers in history. You only have 35m to 40m of running approach before you hit the board. You don't have time to waste jogging at the beginning and then accelerating. You have to produce maximum speed as soon as possible. In the 100m races, the runners produce max velocity at the 60m point. So if you're a jumper and you have only 40m and you spend the first few going slow, you can be sure you cannot reach the maximum speed by the time you reach the board. This is what we are changing.
"There's no secret to jumping further. The best triple jumpers in the world are the fastest men. Arpinder is not fast enough at the moment," he adds.
Yaich believes at his current speed, Arpinder can touch 17 metres.
"Maybe 17.20m at the most!" he says, "But right now, he doesn't have the speed to jump 17.50m. We need to work on that. This is the main goal. He's 26, so I think his last big competition is going to be Paris 2024. He's going to be more than ready for that. Because triple jump is an event that is so technical that you can jump very far even when you are 34 or 35. When Jonathan Edwards broke the world record, he was 29 years old. And he became Olympic champion when he was 34. I think Arpinder still has six-seven years perhaps."
"I know for sure we're going to face some problems because he's going to reach the board with more speed than what he used to do before. I think in the first competition the mark won't be good. I know people will criticise. But just give it time. Maybe by the time of the fourth competition, we'll be able to fix everything," predicts Yaich.
'Arpinder needs to be a 17m jumper'
In the next few days, four athletes from IIS including Arpinder, triple jumper Chitravel and sprinter Dhanalaxmi will accompany Yaich for a camp in Paris. The plan is to stay there for five weeks where the four Indian athletes could participate in two to four national competitions.
For Arpinder, this will mean a chance to put his new routine into action. For Yaich, this means the opportunity to turn Arpinder slowly but surely into what he calls a '17m jumper'.
"Arpinder had so many coaches before who gave him so much different information. So I want him to forget what he learnt before," says Yaich.
"We did our first technical training session recently and in one session, we fixed some small things. I'm not very happy with what he's doing. But each time we do a technical session and he improves by two percent then I don't see why he cannot jump over 17.50m. We're always talking about 17.50m because it is always a medal at the World Championships or the Olympic Games."
For the record, China's Bin Dong won bronze at Rio Olympics with an effort of 17.58m while gold went to the USA's Christian Taylor for a leap of 17.86m. Taylor won gold at the London World Championships a year later with an effort of 17.68m while 17.19m was enough to fetch Portugal's Nelson Evora bronze.
"I've told this to Arpinder as well. He has jumped over 17m, but he is not yet a 17m guy. He has only jumped twice over 17m. That doesn't make you a 17m guy. I told him the first goal is to be consistent. I want him to jump between 16.80m to 16.90m in every competition. If he can do that, I know that one day during a competition on a very good day, he can even jump 17.40m.
"For now, the main goal for him is to be consistent. I don't want to see him jumping 16.30m. If you go into competition and jump 16.30m, then you have no chance to jump 17.50m. If you jump 16.80m or 16.90m at any World Championships or Olympic Games, you move to the finals. That is a goal first."
At the 2017 World Championships, even a 16.66m was good enough to make it to the triple jump finals.
Though cautious about the task at hand, Yaich admits: "It's not that easy. It's some pressure over my shoulder. But we're going to make it. I see he's a very serious guy. I saw his commitment in training. It's just a matter of time."
The writer was at IIS Vijayanagara at the invitation of Inspire Institute of Sport.
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Updated Date: May 09, 2019 13:11:05 IST