Inderjeet Singh: Future Tense for India's Golden Boy
Despite winning six international medals in the last two months, India and Asia's No. 1 shotputter, Inderjeet Singh, is struggling to fund his training for next year's Rio Olympics.
At 6 feet 5 inches, and about 150 kilos, Inderjeet Singh is a giant. Financial constraints and lack of support, as India and Asia's No. 1 shot putter prepares for the Rio Olympics though have pulled Inderjeet's motivation levels down.
In the last couple of months, Inderjeet has won six international medals, including a gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in Wuhan, China, with a record throw, and a gold at the prestigious and popular World University Games in South Korea, the first by an Indian athlete.
"In the last three tournaments that I have participated in, I have created new records. But I have no doctor, no physio, no expert to help me. Just me and my coach, we are a team. If I get injured, there will be nobody to back me, they will drop me from the team just like that," Inderjeet told NDTV from Bhiwani where he trains.
After his father's death in 2007, Inderjeet has had to fund his training by himself. The family had to sell off the two garment shops they owned in Madhya Pradesh, and loans had to taken from friends, relatives, banks. After his bronze at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, the Haryana government promised him 75 lakh as prize money. The 28 year old had thought the loans that he'd taken, worth 25 lakh almost, could now be paid off, and the road to Rio could be planned. But not just Inderjeet, none of Haryana's athletes have received the prize money they were offered by the state. Thanks to change in governments, it has now become a political blame game.
"The total prize money that was to be given to the athletes is 70 crore. But this is the previous government's fault. They cheated on people, and the athletes," Haryana's Sports Minister, Anil Vij, told NDTV from Panchkula.
The Sports Ministry has included Inderjeet's name in its ambitious Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme, but he is yet to receive any money for it. "I didn't even get a letter or an email saying my name is in the TOP scheme, I read about it in the papers the next day," says Inderjeet. "With a year to go for the Olympics, if they don't release money now, when will they?"
Inderjeet is currently banking on crowdfunding to meet his expenses, that run up to 1.5 lakh per month. His hope is, the authorities will finally sit up and take notice if he does well at next month's World Championships in Beijing.