India's top shot putter Om Prakash Singh Karhana is fully aware that he is not exactly among the favourites to win a medal in London Olympics but he considers himself a dark horse who can be on the podium with a bit of luck.
The 25-year-old, who has been training in Hungary for the last two years, told PTI in a telephone interview that his first aim is to qualify for the final before thinking of a medal.
"I am aware that no Indian has won an Olympic medal in athletics. But I don't want to put extra burden on myself thinking that I want to win a medal. I am not doing that. My first aim is to make it to the final round. From then on I can think about winning a medal," he said from Szombathely where he is currently based.
"Olympics is the biggest sporting event and every athlete wants to win a medal there. But what matters is the performance on that particular day. I consider myself to be among the top-level competitors and if luck is in my favour, I can finish on the podium," he added.
Om Prakash qualified for London Olympics a year ago with a throw of 20.04 metres in an IAAF meet at Szombathely before recently shattering Shakti Singh's 12-year-old national record by hurling the iron ball to 20.69m. He claims to be in prime form.
"I have got time to prepare myself for the Olympics. Since the beginning of the year my focus has been on physical fitness and mental aspect.
"Except for a minor elbow problem which came up in the last two weeks while training and which is all right now, there were no issues at all. I am in the best shape of my career," said the Haryana-lad who stands at six feet and seven inches.
Set to make his Olympic debut in London after failing to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, Om Prakash said he has learnt lessons from the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and would not allow himself to be weighed down by pressure and high aims this time.
"Every athlete wants to win a medal and it is the same for me. But all said and done, I am not going to be carried away by high aims or weighed down by pressure. I will try to give my best and the rest is not in my hands.
"I have learnt lessons from the Commonwealth Games. There were expectations and high ambitions of winning a gold then but I finished only fifth with an effort of 19.51m. That was a big disappointment. I also could only finish fourth (19.17m) in the Asian Games. I don't want this to happen again," said Om Prakash, a 2009 Asian champion.
"There is nothing better than bringing glory to the country. If not, I want at least to qualify for the final round. Most of the top shot putters in the world win medals when they have gained experience and after 30 years of age, I am just 25 and there is a long career ahead of me," he added.
He said to learn how to tackle pressure, he has been in touch win an Indian psychologist via internet with the expense being borne by his sponsors Olympic Gold Quest.
"I am constantly in touch with an Indian sports psychologist Vaibhav Agashe -- who is also associated with shooters and archers -- on internet and skype and the expense is being borne by OGQ. I am getting top-class facilities here and I am thankful to the sports ministry and my employers ONGC for their support," he said.
"The facilities and the support staff are still not world class in India. In that sense I am getting everything I wanted in the last two years of my training here thanks to the Sports Ministry, the AFI and the Olympic Gold Quest. The exposure I have got has made me become a better shot putter. In that sense I am lucky," said Om Prakash who is training at Dobose Club under his personal coach Anil Kumar, a former national record holder in discus throw.
Sixteen shot putters are above him in IAAF rankings list with 13 of them having crossed 21.00 metre mark so far in the season. Om Prakash said that he will have to cross 21.00 metre mark if he has to have any chance of winning a medal.
"I know 13 shot putters have crossed 21.00m and that Beijing Olympics medal winners and World Championships medallists would be there. It will be tough competition and I will have to cross 21.00m to finish on podium.
"I am crossing 21.00 metre in training and it's a matter of producing it in actual competition. I am hoping that with a bit of luck I can do that. In such competitions luck also plays a part," he said.
He said he would prefer to go to London with his personal coach Anil Kumar. Om Prakash is competing in a meet in Spain on July 7 and had sent his entry at the London leg of Diamond League series which starts on July 13.
"I am competing in Spain on July 7 and that will be my first competition. It's pre-competition season here and I have not taken part in any competition so far this year. I have been training till now. The event in which I smashed the national record was a pre-season training-cum-competition meet. So the July 7 event will be my first competition and I am hoping to peak in London.
"I have sent my entry for the July 13 London leg of the Diamond League Series and let us see if they invite me or not. I will go to London for the Olympics in the last week of July as my event is on August 3," he said.