KOCHI: “It would be better if you pull out of the team,” a ‘heavyweight’ coach told Davinder Singh Kang over the phone on the eve of the team’s departure for London World Championship. It was the second time that day he was being told to pull out. First was via a junior coach who was goaded by higher-ups to convey the message to the headstrong athlete. Kang, in his inimitable style, put the caller in his place.
“I have already spent more than a decade and invested a lot of money to reach this level. And I didn’t do that just to drop out of the team because somebody is annoyed with me,” Kang told the caller, revealed a source who was privy to the conversation.
It’s no secret that Kang has been in the bad books of Athletics Federation of India bosses ever since he chose to train in Patiala with Kashinath Naik after leaving the Bengaluru camp. Unlike most other athletes, he never tried to mend fences and remained a bitter critic of the AFI mandarins, whom he felt were denying him his rights. His Facebook post on July 27 read: “My journey to this competition has been very tough and I was disturbed by the authorities, which was like mental torture. I have qualified for the Worlds five times. I don’t know what’s going on and what will happen.”
As per his friends at NIS Patiala, Kang was often harrowed by AFI officials because he never fell in line. “We thought they would stop disturbing him after he qualified for the Worlds. But they didn’t. Kang saab trained in agony till boarding the London flight,” said a close friend.
But things got more difficult for Kang when one of his samples taken during the Indian Grand Prix tested positive for cannabis. Kang had pleaded innocence and even hinted that he was being targeted. Since cannabis was a specified substance in the WADA list, Kang got a reprieve. But he was enraged.
Kashinath gave a picture of how the athlete coped. “He called me one morning and said his samples had tested positive for cannabis. It was a shock for both of us. But being a fighter, he got over it. He was angry with the system. There are people who would sink in their anger and there are people who thrive on it. I never tried to curtail his anger. For him, it works well. It brings the best out of him,” Kashi had earlier told Express.
The 28-year-old athlete on Thursday successfully channeled his feelings and created history by becoming the first Indian javelin athlete to feature in the final of a World Championship. He also saved the face of the Indian contingent as none of the athletes have so far made it to the final. The armyman hit 84.22m in his third attempt to make it to the final as the more-fancied Neeraj Chopra failed to rise to the big occasion. The latter bowed out after failing to clear the cut off mark of 83m.
Up against a strong field, a medal would be difficult. “I will do wonders in London,” an excited Kang had told Express before boarding the flight, which then sounded like claptrap. But not now. One perfect throw and who knows where Kang would be on Saturday!