Arpinder Singh on TOPS list exclusion: 'How can I prove myself when there have been no events since March?'
Jakarta Asian Games gold medallist Arpinder Singh questions move to drop him from the Target Olympic Podium Scheme list in a year where there has been scant competitions.
Arpinder Singh has been a baffled man for the past five days after he was informed that he was being dropped from the TOPS list. The decision was taken at the 50th meeting of the Mission Olympic Cell, which was held on Thursday.
The triple jumper says he doesn’t understand why he is being dropped on the basis of a performance review in a year where there has been little competition due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I got a phone call from an official five days back informing me that they were removing my name from the TOPS list. When I asked why, they said that my performances were not up to the mark. I asked them what performances they were talking about since there haven’t been any competitions since March this year. I told the official that I don’t have a problem being taken off the list, but at least they need to explain why I was being taken off the list,” Arpinder told Firstpost on Monday.
“How was I supposed to prove myself when there hasn’t been a competition in so many months. I was told that there haven’t been performances from me. When there hasn’t been a competition for so many months, how can you remove my name for lack of performances?” asked Arpinder, whose season best this year is a 15.97m effort at an event in South Africa in January this year. He hasn’t competed since then.
On being told by this reporter that his season-best performance in 2019 (16.83m) is a fair distance away from his 2018 season best (17.09m), he said: “If that’s the case, they should have removed me last year itself from the list.”
While the TOPs list released on 15 September included Arpinder’s name, the press release sent out by the sports ministry announcing the latest list a couple of days ago mentioned: “The decision to include athletes in the TOPS core group was based on their performance progression and their qualification or high probability of qualification for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled next year.”
Questioning the timing of the move, Arpinder, who a few months back was ignored for the Arjuna Award as well, said, “They have been supporting Olympic hopeful athletes like me for over two years. But now that sports competitions are about to restart with qualification for the Tokyo Games on offer, they’ve chosen to drop me even though there’s been no competition held to judge whether my performance has dipped. This will demoralise anyone.”
Having not crossed the 17m mark in 2019, Arpinder was confident at the start of the year that he could breach the Tokyo 2020 qualifying mark of 17.14m. At the turn of the year, he had been training with PB Jaikumar for a couple of months. Then the coronavirus -enforced lockdown happened forcing him to train by himself in Jalandhar. At first, he did some weight training at home. A few months later, when he hit the track to train, he realised the damage the previous months had done to his cardiovascular endurance.
“Cardio ability bilkul zero ho rakhi thi (My cardiovascular endurance had diminished significantly). I would do anything and my heart rate would shoot up. I was able to train only at 30 percent of the intensity I could earlier,” said the JSW Sports-backed athlete.
The triple jumper says he only started jumps training three-four months back at Jalandhar Sports College.
Given how the year has been disrupted, does he still feel he has a chance to make it to Tokyo?
“It will be difficult. It’s going to be a challenge,” admitted Arpinder. Making things even more complicated for him is the fact that while he was in Punjab during the lockdown, his coach, Jaikumar, was in Kerala. He was planning on travelling to Kerala and training under Jaikumar when the cases started to spike in the state forcing Arpinder to postpone his visit.
Given all of this, does he still feel that he can qualify for Tokyo?
“If I get to train under Jaikumar sir for some time, I don’t think performance will be an issue. I was training with him for a few months when I had jumped 17.09m in 2018. And then again, when I won gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta, I was training with him.”
On being asked if he will use the latest snub to prove his detractors wrong, he said, “I’ve always been proving my detractors wrong. But for that, I need competitions.”
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