#StillOurHeroes is a series by The Better India to honour the hard work and struggles of those who gave everything to reach the Tokyo Olympics – while falling short of bagging a medal. While all of us have been celebrating India’s wins, the efforts of these athletes count just as much. We are here to show them that the country stands by them in their loss and that for their unparalleled diligence, they are already winners in our eyes.
At the final event of discus throw at the Tokyo grounds, Kamalpreet Kaur stood sixth with an impressive 63.70 m fling. Among seasoned athletes and amid the pressure of performing in an international arena, she has surely carved an impactful place as a first-timer at Olympics 2021.
From Punjab to Tokyo
In light of her devoted journey as an athlete, such a personal victory was imminent and well-deserving of recognition.
Kaur, now 25, was born and raised in a humble farmer family in Kabarwala village, Punjab. Her passion for sports was noticeable at the young age of five, when she dreamed of being a cricketer, although couldn’t receive proper training for the same. So she tried her hand at short put as well as other games with equal enthusiasm.
While she was never the star pupil of her class, she didn’t let this deter her from building her own ladder to success. “As it happens in villages, girls are under pressure to get married at a very early age. I knew that if I don’t do well at studies and am not able to make it to a good college, my fate would be the same,” she revealed to Scroll.
So she put all her conviction into developing her potential in the field. After being noticed by her physical education teacher in school, she went to participate in state-level competitions and ranked number four in short put.
But convincing her family to take this passion seriously was a struggle for the young athlete. Here, her guidance came from her father Kuldeep Singh, who held her hand through her entire journey. He used the land assets he owned as a farmer to get his daughter admitted into the Sports Authority of India (SAI) at Badal village.
Meanwhile, Kamalpreet’s mother Rajwinder was skeptical about allowing her daughter to experience the harsh hostel life at the nearby school, which she had to join to finish her studies. The SAI hostel had rejected her application, and the school facilities would not be able to fulfill her dietary requirements as a sports person.
Kamalpreet knew that only hard work and perseverance could prove to her mother that she could make it. This was when she discovered discus throw as her ultimate game on advice of the coach there.
All resources had been spent on the admission process, and the player had to begin her training with locally bought equipment among a swamp of high-flying athletes. After completing her education, she bagged a job in the Indian Railways to support her training further.
Through the years, she remained consistent with her practice and climbed up one event at a time – national events began opening her horizons to the possibility of international representation.
She became the U-18 and U-20 National Champion at the 2016 National Junior Athletics Championships and entered the international sports space at the 2017 World University Games.
Playing events abroad took its own toll on her vegetarian diet. A balanced diet for an athlete in her growing stages is paramount. Knowing this fully, she found her own ways to cope with the lack.
Sharing about her diet regimen, she told News18.com, “…I try to carry my own food, stuff that can balance my protein level, and my vegan supplements. I try to prepare accordingly.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a break in her training. Things looked grim as sports institutions closed down and Kaur found herself back in her village in the depths of depression. But reaching the Olympics was her dream, and soon the player bounced back in full swing.
When her persistence finally landed Kaur at the world’s biggest sporting event, she was ready to face the pressure alone. Due to a technicality her coach, Rakhi Tyagi, could not make it to Tokyo but mentored her online.
This mighty sportswoman set her personal best record of 65.06m at the qualifying rounds of the Olympics, securing a second position. As a young athlete, it’s even more remarkable that she broke the national record for women’s discus throw in the same fling.
Today, her determination has placed her on a pedestal even among the locals of her hometown. The Indian Express described how hundreds of villagers sat at the edge of their seats as Kaur flung her final throw. The scale of her victory might not have been defined by a medal, but has clearly created ripples of its own through its impact.
Feature Image Source: Instagram
Edited by Divya Sethu