An aridity of 48 years was finally put to rest on the 11th day of the Asian Games 2018 when a certain Amritsar-born athlete Arpinder Singh jumped 16.77m en route to claiming India’s first triple jump gold since 1970. Prior to his triumph, only Mohinder Singh Rai (1958) and Mohinder Singh Gill (1970) had achieved the feat; hence Arpinder’s glory was nothing short of a lucid dream.
Lovingly known as Bobby amongst his friends and family, Arpinder was born ins a small village Harsha Chhina Uchha Qila near Amritsar, which is some 20km away from the India-Pakistan border. And His father, Jagbir Singh – who retired as a Hawaldaar from Indian Army in 1990 – was confident enough that his son would go on to become an athlete.
“When Arpinder was a five-year-old kid, I used to wake him up at three in the morning and made him run for 5km every day. He was in fifth grade when he started competing in different track and field events. He tried his hand in 100m, 200m, 300 and long jump. That’s when his then coach DS Bal suggested him to pursue triple jump,” Jagbir told Times of India.
Some 21 years on, Arpinder, now 25, has indeed achieved what his father has ever dreamt of. But his route to the glory though was never a piece of cake, to say the least. There was a struggle, there was flounder, much more than one could imagine. To make sure Arpinder’s training goes swift, his father mortgaged the one-and-a-half-acre land. For Arpinder though, he made sure every tear of the sweat his father had worked for would bear fruits.
The first time he went into the limelight was in 2014 when broke the national record by jumping 17.17m to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, where he would go on to win bronze. And then came what Arpinder would himself describe as the climacteric period of his young career. In order to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Arpinder was granted a ticket to train in London, but little did he know this would backfire with a rough torque.
His coaches at the UK told him to pretermit the techniques he had previously mastered. And this not only resulted in him failing to adjust to the conditions, but his numbers went to an all-time low. An athlete who had crossed the 17m mark in 2014 was struggling to over 16m, as the best he went during his time in London was 15.99m.
“The change I was asked to make was pump my arms harder during my run. Because I was just not able to learn that style, I ended up moving my entire body and because of that, I was jumping high but not long. But because I had put so much time and money in order to be training in London, I decided to keep doing it,” he says.
There was not much time in 2016 Olympics and Arpinder decided to cut short his European tenure to train in a familiar set up. But by the time, his dream of representing India in Olympics was shattered by Renjith Maheshwary, who jumped 17.30m to qualify for the Olympics.
It was earlier this year that he decided to train in Trivandrum, Kerala under J. Jayakumar and the results were again made evident. He qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and although crossed the 17m mark, he narrowly missed out on bronze. And in order to get a spot in the Indian contingent, Arpinder marked a new personal best 17.19m at the Inter-State Athletics championships.
His Asian Games glory, however, was a whole new story altogether. After being red-flagged in his first attempt, the 25-year-old jumped 16.77m in the third go which was enough to seal a top podium spot. And away on the stands, Arpinder had a familiar face; his Asian Games village roommate Tajinderpal Singh Toor who only a few days earlier had won India’s first athletics gold at this tournament.
If you check Arpinder’s Instagram feed, you might, for a second, get an idea that he is an athlete who majorly cribs about his extremely well-built physique. It is a typical Punjabi-boy feed where he likes to flaunt his asset, his humongous shoulder tattoo with his very own hashtag, #bobstyle. And we say why not?
If we can conceive the agony, the torment and the hardship one has put to achieve the prestige, why not make him an Icon?