Asian Games 2018: Asia's number 1 shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor fighting father's cancer one medal at a time
Jubilation, contentment and pride! These are but some of the emotions that one experiences when one achieves something great. These emotions could well be multiplied manifold when it comes to athletes, who have turned their blood into sweat for months.
That, however, is not something that Asia's highest ranked shotputter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor has an option to do. Striving for medals is not just about glory, or about climbing up the rankings, or even becoming famous for the 22-year-old, who hails from Punjab.
Every time Tajinder steps into the 'circle', he has a much deeper purpose to his life -- winning it for his father, who is now possibly on the last laps of his life, suffering from fourth-stage bone cancer.
While Tajinder's meteoric rise in the sport has taken care of most difficulties in his life, including the treatment required for his cancer-inflicted father, things have rarely been hunky-dory for the Toor family.
From the sickle to the shot
Hailing from a family of farmers, he had mostly played cricket back in his village, when he was a child. However, upon his father's advice, the young Tajinder shifted to shot put.
"My father wanted me to try my hand at individual sports as well," Tajinder said, speaking to Sportskeeda from Patiala.
A shift to shot put was a no-brainer for Tajinder, as his uncle was already plying his trade in the sport. "Once I started practising at the ground regularly, I started getting liking the sport as well," he said.
However, it is never easy for a family of farmers to raise a son who aspired to be a professional shotputter. As the young Tajinder progressed through the ranks, the expenditures for his training, diet and equipment also started to increase.
"The thing about shot put is, as you go up the levels, your expenses also gradually rise," said Tajinder. "You need better food supplements, you need to go to a better gym, need better shoes."
Two aspects that cost an athlete a lot are the food supplements and the shoes. Tajinder believes that the quality of the supplements that one gets in India are low and that the athletes have to pay through the roof to avail the foreign products.
The shoes also experience a lot of wear and tear in a sport like shotput, which essentially means that an athlete would have to get a new pair every one and a half month.
"I started out in 2006, and by 2010, I began facing these problems. For example, the shoes that we have to use are really expensive," Tajinder explained. "They cost around Rs 6,000-7,000, but they don’t last more than two months. There is so much pressure exerted on them, that you have to change your shoes very often.
"Overall, these days, the monthly expenses on these things have gone up to around Rs 40,000-50,000. You need to take extra care of your body, eat healthily, and do a lot of other things that cost a lot of money," he said.
Although his expenses are being taken care of with this regard now, Tajinder believes that the government and the federations must come together to support the athletes when they are younger, in order for them to improve their game at a quicker rate.
"What we need to do in India is, whenever young athletes start winning medals, we should give them the backing, financially," he said. "Even if someone wins something even on the district level, we should identify that talent and give them that support."
Indian Navy turns hero in a family tragedy
While Tajinder steadily improved his throws over the years, two incidents, very similar to each other, could very well have stopped his career short in its tracks.
In 2015, his father was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer.
Luckily for the Toor family though, the cancer was still in its initial stages, and a simple surgery was enough to get him back on his feet.
However, lightning struck twice in the same household next year, when his father was once again diagnosed with another version of the same ailment -- this time, it was bone cancer. Unlike the first time, though, the cancer was in its fourth stage, and his father needed heavy treatments.
At this point, Tajinder landed a job in the Indian Navy, something that helped him on all fronts. Not only did the Navy take care of all of Tajinder's expenses with regard to the sporting side of things, but he also received aid in terms of paying the medical bills for his father.
"The biggest help I am getting from the Navy is with my father’s cancer. Our family would have had to spend a lot on treatments," he said. "Now, the Navy takes care of all the expenses.
"This has helped me concentrate on improving my game. Financially, the Navy takes care of things while my mother looks after dad. They ask me not to worry about these things. They all just want me to focus on my game.
"From a sporting angle, the biggest thing that the Navy has given me is that I do not have to take the pressure of anything else anymore. They take care of everything so that I can train peacefully and concentrate on improving myself," said Tajinder.
The inspiration that drives Tajinder's throws
While Tajinder has already won a number of medals in the international and the domestic circuit, a win in a major tournament like the Asian Games went a long way in furthering his career.
He has already made India proud abroad, winning silver at the Asian Indoor Championships in Turkmenistan last year. Now, Asia's top shot putter has broken all barriers, as he shot a games record of 20.75m, to win the gold medal at the Asian Games.
"It’s a special feeling, going to these international competitions. Most domestic competitions take place during the day," said Tajinder. "But on the international arena, you play under floodlights, which makes it all the more special for me. It gives me that extra motivation. If you feel good about your surroundings, nine out of 10 times your throw will also be a good one."
However, that is not the only thing that is driving the man from a little village called Moga, in Punjab. Heading into the Asian Games, Tajinder drew inspiration from just one man -- his father.
"At this stage, I know that my father is not going to live for too long. All I want to do right now is to win as many medals as I can, while he is still alive. I want to give him all the medals," he signed off.