Jakarta Asian Games 800m champion Manjeet Singh reboots to prepare for 2022 season

Asian Games - Day 9 (file photo)
Asian Games - Day 9 (file photo)
Navneet Singh

The burden of not having a job coupled with a knee injury ruined Manjeet Singh's plans for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games held earlier this year in Japan. The 2018 Jakarta Asian Games 800-meter champion is now planning to reboot for the 2022 season.

Haryana’s 33-year-old sprinter from Jind region had filed his job application two-and-a-half years ago with the Haryana state government. But Manjeet said his application was rejected in January this year.

Putting behind the disappointment of a lack of job security, the Asian Games champion has to prepare for the 2022 season.

One of his goals is to excel at the international level next year and apply for a sports quota job outside Haryana. With that in mind, he has joined the national camp in Bengaluru.

After a gap of two-and-a-half years, in January this year, Manjeet was shell-shocked when he got a negative response from Haryana's state sports department.

“I was surprised to receive a communication from the Haryana government in January this year that there is no provision for sports quota job under the existing sports policy guidelines for elite athlete like me," he told Sportskeeda over the phone from Bengaluru.

Manjeet is among several elite athletes attending the national camp in Bengaluru in preparation for the 2022 season.

According to Manjeet, post Jakarta Asian Games, his primary goal was to seek a job for future security. Under Haryana’s sports policy, medal winners of the Asian Games are entitled to jobs. With Asian Games 800m gold in his pocket, he was hopeful of a positive response.

Even after a long wait of two-and-a-half years, he is still jobless. Despite making several rounds each month to Chandigarh/Panchkula from his home in Jind to inquire about the status of his job application, he was left jobless.

The government is in the process of revamping the old policy and we don't know whether there will be fresh job applications in the future, he said.

"You can imagine the state of my mind. There is no job security. No sponsors to practice on professional lines. Instead of practice I was running to seek a job,” he recalls missing his training sessions.

Being an elite athlete, Manjeet knows how to adapt to different circumstances. But he has completely lost faith in the Haryana government, saying he will never seek a job outside Haryana.

“It’s good Haryana government gives financial assistance to elite athletes. But there is no provision of jobs. That is as good as not promoting sports in the state,” opines Manjeet.

Manjeet said he competed in the 2019 season but it was a half-hearted attempt. His main focus was to get a job through sports quotas, which never happened.

Injury to the left knee, was another problem he had to deal with in 2019. Nothing worked for him during the post Jakarta Asian Games.

“I was struggling on and off the field. Knee injury had its toll. It took a long time for me to fully recover from the injury,” he said of the setbacks in 2019.

The 2020 season was disrupted by Covid-19 pandemic. Haryana’s middle-distance runner made an appearance on the track in 2021. His season best was 1:49 in 800m.

Manjeet ready to excel again, knows competition will be tougher

Manjeet’s gold winning time at the Jakarta Asian Games was 1:46.15 seconds. It was his personal best. The 2018 Asian Games champion knows it wouldn’t be an easy task next year. To excel in the 2022 competitive season, he has to be stronger and faster both at domestic as well as at international level.

“My past performance will not matter. I haven’t done extraordinary in the 2021 season. I have to clock exceptionally good times next year to stay ahead of other runners in the camp,” he said of the highly competitive season ahead.

Consistent training over a period of 24 months from 2016 to 2018 vastly improved his performance. He ultimately won gold at the Jakarta Asian Games.

Training to excel at major international events like the Asian Games or Commonwealth Games without having a regular job is a challenging affair, said Manjeet.

“A pair of running spikes and shoes cost more than Rs 10,000. A good nourishing diet, all costs huge amounts of money each month. Without having a job it is difficult to shell out Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 for sports,” he added.

The son of a farmer said without his family's support he couldn’t have thought of staying on track for 2022.

“I joined the national camp in Bengaluru last month. I’m healthy and fit. Hope to make an impact in 2022 season,” Manjeet said over the phone from Bengaluru.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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