Manpreet Kaur would had an inkling that things were going well. During practice ahead of the women’s shot put event at the 55th National Open Athletics Championships in Kolkaka, the shot putter had thrown the iron ball 18.60m.
It was a remarkable throw considering the national record set 18 years ago by Harbans Kaur was 17.43m. Manpreet wasn’t able to touch her practice effort during the competition itself but her best effort of 17.96m at Salt Lake SAI was still good enough to break Harbans Kaur’s national mark as well qualify for the Rio Olympics for which the qualification standard was 17.80m.
The Railways athlete was a cut above the rest in her field. Another Manpreet, from ONGC, finished second nearly three meters behind with a best throw of 15.03m, while Ramanpreet Kaur from Punjab bagged the bronze with a throw of 14.36m.
Manpreet though isn’t satisfied with her effort. The champion is confident of reaching the 19m mark by next year but admits that to win a medal in the Olympics she has to go another metre-and-a-half further. Indeed the bronze medal at last months World Championships needed a throw of 19.76m. “Hitting 19m is no big deal. I will get there soon. But my target for the Olympics is something above 20m. Let’s see what happens,” said Manpreet.
It helps that her husband Karanjeet, a former University-level shot putter, is her coach. “He’s a hard taskmaster. I practise for more than three hours a day. Now he will push me to spend some extra hours. Daant bahoot parti hain (he scolds me a lot). But the advantage is that I can share things with him and tell him about the problems I’m facing. He will ensure I reach my peak at Rio.”
“She has been very strong from the start, but winning an Olympic medal would be a huge challenge. I will ensure she put in her best efforts in Rio,” said Karanjeet who married Manpreet in 2009 after a few years of courtship. They now have a four-year-old daughter Jasnoor. “She’s not here but I hope she has watched it on TV and clapped,” Manpreet said with a smile.
The shot-putter from Ambala fell in love with athletics because she wanted to be like her cousin and sister-in-law, who were state-level athletes. Karanjeet suggested her to pick shot put. She hasn’t made a wrong choice. It was her sixth gold medal in the National Championships, and her third on the trot. The challenge now is to reach the next level.