Rohtak lad Dharambir Singh (27) has qualified for the Rio Olympics in 200-metre sprint event. Hailing from Rohtak’s Ajaib village, Singh broke national as well as his own previous record by clocking 20.45 seconds during the qualifying tournament in Bengaluru on Monday.
The qualification mark in Rio Olympics for this category was 20.50 seconds. Dharambir will be the first Indian athlete to take part in this event in 36 years.
“I feel extremely happy. I hope I keep up my performance during Olympics in August as well,” he said while talking to HT over phone from Bengaluru.
He had broken Flying Sikh Milkha Singh’s record in Asian athletics championship held in China in 2015 by sprinting 200 metres in 20.66 seconds. He had bagged bronze medal in the event.
However, his journey had been full of financial hurdles. Singh’s coach Ramesh Sindhu said `40,000 to `45,000 per month was required for his diet and running equipment. “He comes from a lower-middle class family. Things have been hard most of the times, but he has always been positive in his approach,” Sindhu said.
Singh’s father, Shradhanand, a retired clerk from the irrigation department, remembers how his son used to sow seeds in fields and worked hard as an LIC agent to pay for his expenses. “He always wanted to participate in Olympics. He couldn’t make the cut for London in 2012 because of lack of funds and a leg injury. We are hopeful he will bag a medal in Rio,” Shradhanand said.
His wife Indu Singh said, “Our happiness has doubled as Dharambir was blessed with a boy two months ago. Our whole family, especially his three-year-old daughter, is very excited about her father’s entry into Olympics,” she said.
Residents of Ajaib village, who contributed over `4 lakh in March this year to help Dharambir, are also overjoyed. Sarpanch Samundar Singh said several children in the village were pursuing sports, taking inspiration from Dharambir.
Besides winning bronze in Asian championship held in Wuhan, China, in 2015, Dharambir bagged gold medals in the Common Wealth Youth Games (2008) and National Inter-state Athletic Championship (2015).
He is the second athlete from Rohtak to qualify for Rio Olympics, the other being Sakshi Malik in wrestling.