We are just under 5 months away from the start of the 31st edition of The Olympics in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro. In several major sports, India already seem to be building a competent squad and in athletics, especially, the team looks good to compete against the best and give them a run-for-their-money.
The athletics contingent consists of a mixture of youth and experience with the likes of Vikas Gowda, Tintu Luka etc competing in their third and second games respectively while some featuring in their maiden edition. Among those in the latter category is women’s shot putter Manpreet Kaur.
The 25-year-old qualified for the Games by beating the Olympic mark and the national record at the National Open Athletics Championships in Kolkata and is certainly a dark horse as far as the track-and-field is concerned.
However, Manpreet’s early days before entering into the sport weren't as happy as she would’ve liked it to be.
“We were a five-member family. I am eldest of the three children. My father, who was a farmer, passed away when I was 13 years old and in 2006, my mother was paralysed,” Manpreet told Sportskeeda in a telephonic interaction.
It is not often that in such a situation, one’s parents or relatives would encourage their children to take up sport seriously, but it wasn’t the case with her as once she developed an interest in athletics through her brothers, she found support come her way through her father.
“It was through my cousin brothers, who were passionate about sports. One is a university level 100m sprinter and the other who is an employee the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation(ONGC) and is a discuss thrower. I developed an interest watching them and my father also showed interest. I have been with my brother, I have trained under him and that's how I developed a further interest and pursued it as a career option,” she adds.
Once the decision to take up athletics as a career option was made, it was then time to decide upon the discipline that she had to participate in and like earlier, here too, it was her brother, who helped her choose the right career path.
“As I said earlier, my brother is a discus thrower, my sister-in-law was also a shot putter. Initially, I trained for a year in the 100m but then my brother asked me to turn to shot put as he felt I had a better chance of doing well there,” Manpreet said.
Her male counterpart in Shotput, Inderjeet Singh has had a sensational 2015 and while Manpreet hasn't had a chance to speak to him, his coach Shakti Singh is someone who has been of help for her in Patiala.
“I haven't had a chance to interact with him(Inderjeet), but his coach, Shakti Singh, who is also the sports sir in Patiala, I have had discussions with him as to how to improve, how to train etc,” she says.
Now heading into her maiden Olympics in Rio, Manpreet is calm yet confident and is looking to put her best foot forward. She also believes that this could be the edition when India could finally get the monkey off its back and win their maiden medal in athletics.
“The aim is out to go to Rio and give my best shot. I will try not to get distracted by others exploits. The most important thing would be to give my best shot and what I will need to do to do well. My target at Rio 2016 will be to put my best foot forward.
I think we have a good chance. the likes of Inderjeet Singh, Vikas Gowda etc have been doing well. Seema didi(Antil) is also putting in the hard yards. For sure, our overall medal haul will be better than the earlier editions,” Manpreet said.
Not only have her husband and coach Karmajeet Singh and her relatives been supportive of her ambitions, Manpreet has also found support, coming her way from Anglian Medal Hunt, who brought her on board after she qualified for Rio in Kolkata in September and she is happy to be a part of a team that includes the likes of Manavjit Singh Sandhu from shooting as well.
“Even since I made the cut for Rio(at the National Open Athletics Championships in Kolkata in September), I have been associated with them. they have been very supportive and I get to know about several things about where to improve and how to get better,” she concluded.
The journey has been a long one for Manpreet and she would be hoping that its culmination comes at Rio 2016 where she is, hopefully, the Indian to break the ice and get the country that elusive medal.