As a student, Avtar Singh surprised friends with his tricks. As an international judoka, the trait stays intact. Two months back, he flummoxed opponents at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan to finish fifth in the 90kg group. The result helped him earn an Olympic berth.
The strapping athlete from Punjab is looking ahead. “I want to give a fillip to judo in the country so that there are more followers. That’ll be the aim when I step on the mat in Rio,” he told HT on Thursday.
The first step in that direction will be to maintain form for the next two months. His coach Yashpal Solanki, a former international, said, “It’s important to excel in the opening bout in the Olympics because it boosts confidence.”
Avtar has 32 players in his group. If he wins the opening bout and gets a bye in the second, chances are he will enter the round of 16. Another win will put him in top eight, which will be an outstanding performance.
Avtar and his coach will be going for advanced training to Tata, Hungary, next week. “The government has sanctioned funds for a month-long training stint in Europe. It will play an important role in shaping Avtar’s capabilities because of better sparring partners,” said Solanki.
The sport has potential in the country but doesn’t get enough exposure. Perhaps, better coordination between the Judo Federation of India (JFI) and sports ministry could give it a fillip.
“Judo has a complex qualifying system, and starts three years before the Olympics,” said JFI president Mukesh Kumar. “Due to insufficient funds it becomes difficult to compete in all the competitions,” he added.
There are as many as 40 international tournaments spread over 24 months, and of them, the world’s best compete in more than 20.
Despite participating in just six competitions this year, Avtar has earned 182 points to rank 79th in the world. His ranking in Rio will be 27.
“It’s an advantage to compete in more competitions as more points give an edge when the fixture is drawn for the Olympics,” said Solanki.