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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

The image makeover that really matters for Arpinder Singh

Arpinder Singh ended a 48-year wait for an Indian Games champion last month, a tribute to his perseverance despite a string of early failures that drew ridicule from his villagers.

other-sports Updated: Sep 19, 2018 17:05 IST
Ankit Kumar Singh
Ankit Kumar Singh
Mumbai
Gold medal winner India's Arpinder Singh at the medal ceremony of men's triple jump competition at the 18th Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Gold medal winner India's Arpinder Singh at the medal ceremony of men's triple jump competition at the 18th Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia.(PTI)
         

Newly crowned Asian Games triple jump champion Arpinder Singh is fashion conscious and the number of his Instagram followers testifies to that. But the image makeover that has delighted him the most is winning over detractors in his village following the Jakarta success.

Arpinder Singh ended a 48-year wait for an Indian Games champion last month, a tribute to his perseverance despite a string of early failures that drew ridicule from his villagers.

Arpinder tried 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump before settling on triple jump, in which he is now Asia’s best.

“I took to athletics at 12 but I failed in whichever event I tried. My father was very disappointed … it seemed as if I was not destined to be an athlete. Fortunately I met coach DS Bal in Amritsar who asked me to try triple jump,” Arpinder said on Tuesday after being unveiled as the Godrej Cinthol brand ambassador here with Bollywood actor Harshvardhan Kapoor.

VILLAGE HERO

The Jakarta triumph has transformed the 26-year-old’s life. For all the monetary gains and popularity accrued, Arpinder’s biggest satisfaction is in winning over his villagers.

Arpinder hails from Harsha Chhina village in Amritsar district, barely 20 km from the India-Pakistan border. His father Jagbir Singh, a retired havildar in the Indian Army, played hockey and kabaddi in his youth and spotted his son’s latent talent in athletics and encouraged him. But villagers would make fun of the boy.

However, once news of his golden feat reached them, the same detractors made a beeline for his home to congratulate his father. The endorsement is Arpinder’s gain after a Godrej official said they could not tie up with javelin star Neeraj Chopra.

“People in my village used to tell my father ‘your son won’t do well in life’. When I was practicing hard, nobody had anything positive to say, most of them would discourage me. But after my success, they have become my admirers and that is my biggest achievement,” he said.

EYE ON RECORD

Arpinder, followed his Asian Games gold by winning bronze in the IAAF Continental Cup in Czech Republic (first by an Indian athlete). He is now eyeing a record-breaking performance in the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

The first target is to better his personal best of 17.17m, achieved in 2014. His immediate focus is on the Open Nationals starting in Bhubaneswar on September 24, for which he is training in Kerala.

“I could have set a new record in Jakarta, but it was too humid and took a toll on me. I could not try going past the mark in the Intercontinental Cup too as I was tired attending function after function following my Asian Games success. Next year though, I am going to make it happen, hopefully.”