There was a familiar face cheering Arpinder Singh on behind the triple jump area at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium on Wednesday. It was Tajinderpal Singh Toor, the shot putter who had won India's first athletics gold at these Asian Games. During Toor's event, Arpinder, who is his Games village roommate, had been in the stands behind him, doing a Facebook live of the event, providing live commentary to his fans. Now it was Toor's turn to return the favour.
Overenthusiastic broadcast rights holders ensured Arpinder's followers wouldn't get a Punjabi second-by-second take on his triple jump competition. And It's not that Arpinder would mind, especially after he won his first gold at the Asian Games with a jump of 16.77m.
While there might not be a video, there will definitely be a photoshoot lined up for his Instagram profile very soon. Unlike other athletes who make their monkish focus on their sport apparent, Arpinder is far more relaxed. To go through Arpinder's Instagram profile is to witness an athlete conscious and unapologetic about his good looks. There are a few of the spontaneous selfies of some of his compatriots but most are carefully planned sessions
The pictures of Singh posing bare torsoed in exotic locations, sitting on his Enfield, showing off new shoulder ink or a new head of cornrows. It is a profile that exudes brash Punjabi confidence. Even during a time when he was anything but.
My goal is really just to have a positive impact on everyone... #bobstyle �� #blessed ���� #athlete #triplejumper #indianathlete #proudindian #fitindian #fitnessfreak #trainhard #eatclean #goals #flexpost #waheguru mehar kare #bless
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Those years of trough-like struggle were hard, especially considering the peaks he had just attained. Back in 2014, the then 21-year-old had jumped a national record 17.17m to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, where he would win bronze. Flush with confidence and funds, he decided to make his next goal the Olympics. For that he went to London to train at the Lee Valley jumps academy.
His friends and supporters thought he was doing great. He posted pictures of him walking around London in a slick tux, in front of castles and parked Lamborghinis. All signed with the hashtag #bobstyle. Inside his mind there was torment. He had been told to unlearn his technique and adopt a new style.
"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.
His results tailed off. He had a best of 15.99m in 2016. There was no end to the smirking from those around him. "I had haters. People who commented that I was done as an athlete. That all I knew was to take pictures," he says.
It was only a couple of years ago that he finally decided to step back from his London dreams. He isn't critical about his experiences there though. "I was living on my own in a strange country for the first time. I learned to cook my own food from the beginning, even how to cut onions. I would cycle to my training center in -3 and -4 degrees. It didn't work the way I wanted but that time really made me who I am today," he says.
It was another stint in a strange land that would help Arpinder realise his potential on the track. At the start of this year, he began training in Trivandrum under athletics coach J Jayakumar. "For a Punjabi, everything is different in Kerala, from the food to the way you can even hang out. Man maara hua tha (My mind was beat). But Jayakumar sir retaught my old technique," he says.
He would jump a new personal best 17.19 at the Inter-State Athletics championships in order to qualify for the Asian Games. And although he wasn't able to get a national record like he had hoped, Arpinder is still more than happy with a gold medal. How does he plan to celebrate? With a photo session of course. That's #bobstyle.