Rio-bound judoka Avtar laments lack of government support
New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) He has not only vaulted 130 spots in the world rankings after just six tournaments but has also become India's first judoka in a decade to seal an Olympic berth. Avtar Singh is however unhappy with the lack of proper support from the government until his qualification.
Avtar missed the bronze medal at the Asian championship in Uzbekistan last month, but the 24-year-old is confident of putting up a brave fight in Rio de Janeiro.
"Until I booked the Rio berth, there was absolutely no support from the government. My parents risked all their hard-earned savings on me, they had cashed their fixed-deposits to book my tickets to the Samsun Grand Prix in Turkey in April," Avtar, who clinched the gold at the South Asian Games in Guwahati, told IANS in an interview.
"But after that, I managed to get some assistance as I was sent to Georgia for international training. It felt good to be recognised finally."
Despite all the hardships, the 6' 4" judoka said his performance will not be impacted by the lack of exposure and he is all set to give his 100 percent.
"When I travelled to Tashkent, I didn't expect to qualify for Olympics. I gave my best for that fifth spot. (Iranian) Saeed Moradi was highly rated but I managed to beat him," he said, while thanking his sponsors, Tata Salt.
"My preparation was for a medal, which unfortunately no one believed in me, except my parents and my coach (Yashpal Solanki) but I stayed positive which really paid off."
Asked about his inspiration, the burly Punjab Police sub-inspector was quick with his reply, "The national flag is my only inspiration."
"Anyone who represents the country is an inspiration, here we have a host of athletes whom I can look up to...to name a few, wrestlers Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, shooter Abhinav Bindra, shuttler Saina Nehwal. They have made the country proud with their achievements," he said.
Avtar's coach Solanki, who is his colleague in the Punjab Police, exuded confidence regarding his ward's prospects in Rio.
"When I was a player, he was one of my juniors. I have seen him growing up and with the kind of talent he has, he may lack in experience at the top class level but he is second to none in fitness," said Solanki, who was conferred with the Arjuna award in 2012.
Lamenting the poor coordination between the Judo Federation of India (JFI) and the government, Solanki, who recently resigned as head coach of the national team, said he can guarantee that more Indian judokas will qualify for the 2020 Games if they get proper assistance.
"We don't need the whole amount of Rs.60 lakh from the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme. Give us half the amount and I can guarantee at least a medal in the next Olympics. But that assistance must start coming from this year, giving it six months before the Olympics won't serve the purpose," he said.
Avtar's event in the 90kg weight category will be held on August 10, making him only the eighth judoka to have ever represented India at the Olympics.
(Tribid Baparnash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )