At six feet, four and half inches, Avtar Singh towers over the rest in his 90-kg weight category and the Indian judoka promised not to disappoint during his Olympic campaign at next month’s Rio Games. Having fought with experienced judokas from Greece, Georgia and Slovenia, Singh said he is confident of tackling the challenges.
“At the big stage, experience counts and I’m confident to tackle the challenges. I cannot predict anything but I promise that I won’t disappoint,” Singh, who hails from Kothe Ghurala village in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, said.
The Punjab Police judoka’s road to Rio is fraught with challenges as his parents cashed their fixed deposits to fund his trip to Turkey Grand Prix in April. The cash-strapped Singh could compete in just six International events since 2015 to improve his ranking to seal one of the two Asian quotas.
“Thankfully, things have changed now. I don’t need any financial assistance after being included in the TOP scheme,” Singh, who spent about a month training in Hungary, said on the sidelines of his training.
Singh became the first Indian judoka to qualify in Olympics since Akram Shah’s 2004 appearance at Athens Games and his Arjuna Awardee coach Yashpal Solanki also showed a lot of faith on him.
“He’s very determined and fearless. He’s the tallest in his weight category, so his reach, endurance and fitness will make him the one to watch out for,” Solanki said on the eve of their departure to Rio.
“We just hope to be lucky in the draw. If he avoids anyone from top-five in his first round and gets past the hurdle, we should see him in the last eight, and from thereon it’s anybody’s game,” the coach said.
From being his competitor during the National Games and World Championship 2011 trials to becoming his coach, Solanki has seen Singh from his early days.
“After I turned to coaching, we picked him in a group of nine keeping in mind of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and he has clinched the berth for Rio by improving his ranking,” he said.
“I had beaten him in both the trials. But it would be a much bigger achievement for me if makes his
mark in Rio. Just the thought of it is enough to get goose bumps,” the coach said.