After bagging bronze in Dubai, emotional homecoming for Tricity para athlete Nishad Singh

Nitin Sharma
Nishad Singh with his coaches Naseem Ahmed and Vikram Chaudhary at Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula. (Express Photo: Jasbir Malhi)

Returning to Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Tuesday to meet his coaches Naseem Ahmed and Vikram Chaudhary, after winning the bronze medal in the men’s high jump T47 event at Dubai Para Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, last week, was an emotional moment for 21-year-old para-athlete Nishad Singh.

Singh, whose father Rashpal Singh works as a labourer in Himachal Pradesh, has been training at the stadium since the last two years. He also earned the quota for India in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. It was a nostalgic time for the 6 ft 4 inch athlete as he remembered his training at the Panchkula stadium.

“When I came to Panchkula to train in 2017, the sports nursery at the stadium was not operating and coaches told us to stay in private accommodation. It also meant that the monthly expenditure to train was more than Rs 15,000 and my father Rashpal Singh would send me money after borrowing from relatives. Coaches Naseem Ahmed and Vikram Chaudhary also helped me financially. To return at the stadium after winning the bronze is a special moment for me and my coaches and it is also reminding me of all the hardships I faced during training,” shared Singh, while speaking to Chandigarh Newsline.

A native of village Badaun in Una district in Himachal Pradesh, Kumar has been suffering from disability in his right-hand since the age of six, as his hand mistakenly got inside a fodder-cutting machine. With his father working as a daily wage labourer, Kumar took up athletics at the age of eight at Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Katohar Khurd, under coach Ramesh. The youngster initially competed in 400m, 200m races apart from competing in high jump events before taking up high jump as his main sport. He won the silver medal in the sub-junior category in School National games at Patiala in 2013, where he competed in the general category. Last year, Singh won the silver medal in the high jump event in the National Para Athletics Championships held at Panchkula, with a jump of 1.83 m.

Earlier this year, the athlete claimed the gold medal in World Para Grand Prix Championships in Dubai in February where he recorded a jump of 1.92m. Before the world championships, Singh won the gold in Para National Athletics Championships.

“Initially, I competed in the general category and the silver medal in Patiala gave me a lot of confidence. After coming to Panchkula, my coaches asked me to concentrate in the para category. Winning gold medal in last year’s para nationals made me believe that I can win at the national and international medal. Making a jump of 1.92m in Dubai was my personal highest score earlier this year and in Doha last week, I made registered my best jump of 2.00 m. I keep watching videos of two-time world champion Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and seeing his techniques helps me a lot. The coming eight months is very important for me and I will train under coach Satyanarayan, coach of Rio Paralympics gold medalist Mariyappan, at Bengaluru.

Coach Naseem Ahmed believes Singh can improve further. “When he initially came to train under us, we saw his height as the biggest advantage for him. But we had to work on his fitness. He spent a lot of time doing weight training and his will power is his biggest strength. In Doha, Rio Paralympics gold medallist and world record holder Roderick Townsend-Roberts made a jump of 2.03m to win the gold. Nishad can win the medal in Tokyo next year,” said Ahmed.

Back at his village, father Rashpal Singh and mother Pushpa are eagerly waiting for their son. “I earn Rs 350 daily as a daily wage worker and had to borrow money from relatives to spend on his training. To see Nishad win a medal has been the biggest moment for us. We are waiting for him to come home and to taste his favourite dish at home,” shared Rashpal Singh.