NEW DELHI: Even though the number of Arjuna Award winners swelled to 27 this year, the omission of triple jumper Arpinder Singh came as a surprise. Incidentally, this was his fourth attempt at winning the prestigious laurel but he has been left ruing another missed opportunity despite boasting of one of the strongest credentials.
Such was his confidence that he initially refused to believe the list of awardees, terming it fake before a couple of friends confirmed that he had indeed missed out once again. "I was baffled to say the least. I'm not boasting, but this year I definitely thought I edged the other contenders in terms of points accrued. My coach had won the Dronacharya in 2018 on the basis of my Asiad gold and I still cannot win the Arjuna," he lamented over the phone from Jalandhar.
The CWG bronze medallist also supported Neeraj Chopra, who many felt was one of the most deserving candidates for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. He was respectful towards the ones who ended up winning this time around. "Dutee is a fine athlete. Even Manjit Singh (2018 Asian Games 800m gold winner) was a
deserving candidate. Neeraj's omission was surprising, especially in such a long list. In previous iterations, multiple winners from track and field events were present but this year was hard to digest."
Despite being overlooked yet again, the 27-year-old promised to make an even stronger case for his inclusion in the coming years. "So many people have called or messaged and it shows the love they have for me. I need to keep fighting for them. Even the AFI president spoke on my behalf. That has motivated me even further. It has been two days since and there is no looking back now. The aim is to qualify as soon as possible for the Olympics and then take on the next challenges head on. This is not the end of the road for me for sure," he affirmed.
Having resumed training three months back, Arpinder says he needs another month to regain sharpness. And from thereon, competitions will help him in his bid to make the Tokyo cut. "Initially, returning to training after a long layover was a bit strange and it took some time getting used to the feeling. But now I'm in much better shape. It seems unlikely that we will get any major competition this year but I want to qualify as soon as possible for Tokyo so that I can utilise the remaining time to further improve myself and make the country proud," he signed off.