Interview: Could he be India's next Ironman? Meet pentathlon prodigy Raghav Jamwal
A student of Delhi University, Raghav Jamwal is ranked 2nd in India and is among the top 30 Asian pentathletes.
A few months ago, former model and current triathlete Milind Soman won the much acclaimed Ironman Triathlon held in Zurich, Switzerland.
An Olympic sport since 2000, the triathlon is a multiple-stage competition involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance disciplines, traditionally involving swimming, cycling, and marathon running.
The modern pentathlon, however, is a new beast. As the name suggests, it’s an Olympic Sport comprising five events namely fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting, and a 3200 m cross-country run. Thus, it can be dubbed one of the most difficult events of the 25 core Olympic sports as it calls for not just endurance but also precise skills and presence of mind.
While many of us fail to even get a grip of just one sport, to be a pentathlonist, you have to master five. Raghav Jamwal, a student of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, happens to be an athlete just like this.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, Raghav narrated his love for sports since his childhood days.
As a child, he participated in a variety of sports because he got bored of playing just one again and again. He took up fencing in the eleventh standard, and went on to participate in various competitions.
It was during this time that he came across the multi-disciplinary pentathlon. “I was looking up Google for various fencing events when I came across ‘modern pentathlon’. That was it, I looked up for associations in India and took up this challenging sport”, he said.
However, life hasn’t been that easy for the youngster. The discipline demands loads of infrastructural conveniences as well as diet requirements.
“My strongholds are fencing and running, but shooting and riding are new to me. And it’s not normal shooting, it’s running and shooting. Thus it requires a lot of practice. I took up yoga as a way to stay calm and relax after practice. After you run, it’s difficult to control your pulse rate and you need to have it in control because shooting takes up a lot of mental strain,” said Raghav.
In the current version of game, a combination of running and shooting events take place such that each competitor runs three 800m laps, each prefaced by hitting five targets with a pistol.
Untill 2009, however, the shooting discipline involved using a 4.5 mm air pistol in the standing position from 10 metres distance at a stationary target.
The greatest challenge ahead of Jamwal is that of infrastructural facilities, as there is no space in India that provides him a place to practice all five of the disciplines.
“I practice one game for four hours and then spend the next five hours travelling to practice the next,” he said.
He also talked about the lack of coaches for such a sport, continuing, “I don’t really have coaches as such. I have two individual coaches helping me with riding and swimming.”
India currently has a pool of around 250 athletes who have taken up pentathlon as a sporting discipline and quite a few of them happen to be from the Army. The biggest struggle for all of them however happen to be the sponsors.
‘It’s been really difficult for me. To match the international standards you really need help from sponsors. I hope to train in Hungary as they have good training facilities. I have already talked with their federation and I hope people really come up to sponsor me” said Raghav.
Currently ranked 2nd in India and 29th in Asia, Jamwal recently participated at the Asian Championships in Beijing, China.
The tournament gave him much-needed global exposure and a chance to see where he stands in the global arena. He was awestruck by the facilities for pentathlon athletes in China and wished the same in India.
Competing against participants from Asia and Oceania groups, with Olympic medallists among his competitors, Jamwal could only manage a top 22 finish, but he has promised himself and the country a podium finish in the Olympics in the coming years.
“It’s my dream to represent India in Olympics 2020 and bring back a medal in modern pentathlon. And I will work hard to do so” said Raghav.
In a country where athletes find it difficult to practice one discipline due to the lack of infrastructural or financial difficulties, Raghav Jamal has heroically mastered five and is well in his way to being India’s first pentathlon medallist.
We cheered our heart out when Milind Soman won the Triathlon. Let’s now cheer this hero on, motivating and supporting him for a medal in the Olympics in the future.