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Rio Olympics 2016: Opportunity beckons for Avtar Singh and Indian judo

Avtar is the lone participant in Judo for India at the Rio Olympics.

avtar singh
Avtar Singh (in white) will be the only judoka for India at Rio

The story of India’s lone judoka representative at Rio is so similar to many other Indian athletes who may or may not be Rio bound. Fighting against the odds from a very tender age, Avtar Singh has overcome obstacles from 2008 when his local coach considered him the weakest of his students, despite results indicating otherwise. Persistent support from his parents prevented him from quitting the game and the gradual rise in his ranks began.

Sports lovers may recall him representing India at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games where he lost to eventual silver medallist Mathew Purssey of Scotland in the pre-quarters.

Need for international exposure

Languishing outside the top-200 mid-way through the Olympic qualification period, Avtar was desperate to participate in more tournaments to improve his world ranking.

He had participated in just one-fifth of the tournaments that his rivals had. With minimal support from the Judo Federation and consequently the Government, his training programs and international trips started to suffer.

Parents to Avtar’s rescue

Ultimately his parents had to start searching their small pockets and even exhausted their savings to fund his trip to the Turkey Grand Prix earlier this year.

His hard work and parents blessings started paying off, as this 6 feet 4 inches tall judoka put up a brilliant show in the Asian Championships at Tashkent where he finished fifth. One of his victims was the highly rated Iranian Saeed Moradi. This pushed up his ranking to 79 and the rest they say is history.

Tweak in training program

His physique and height made it difficult to find sparring partners in India and his quest lead him to ten-time national champion Cawas Billimoria. Billimoria is the same height as Avtar and his technical inputs would have a greater impact. 

There have been further training programs in Brazil with the Japanese legend Yasuhiro Yamashita and a visit to Hungary to spar with some of the world’s best judokas. Avtar spent some time with world class Hungarian coach Rodrigue Chenet.

Also read: No savings, mortgaged house: Avtar Singh had one shot at Rio Olympics, and he took it

Tough Competition awaits at Rio

Tiago Camilo

The host nation’s representative in this category is the most experienced at 34 years. A silver medallist at the 2000 Games in the 73kg category, he also added a bronze at Beijing in the 81 kg category. In between, he was World Champion in 2007. Camilo is the only man to win the Pan American Games three times, 2007, 2011 and 2015. This is Camilo’s 4th Olympic Games.

Gwak Dong-han

This young judoka from South Korea is the current world champion. His results in the various Grand Prix tournaments after 2015 world championships have been average but he continues to be one the top judokas due to his aggressive style.

Mashu Baker

One of the hot favourites to win at Rio if recent results are to go by. Along with his World Championships bronze, he won the Grand Slams at Baku, Tyumen and Tokyo last year. This year has seen him lift the World Masters title.Some other formidable judokas in the form of Kiril Denisov, Ashley Gonzalez will strengthen the competition further.

Young Avtar Singh may lack in experience at the top class level but according to his coaches, second to none in fitness. He will carry a billion hopes as he steps onto the mat and his fans will cheer him on along with his parents. 

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