Discus thrower Kamalpreet Kaur is getting used to the attention. And to being a perceived a wellspring of information for aspiring athletes in her village and beyond.
After qualifying as second in her group Kaur, 25, finished sixth in Tokyo with a best of 63.70m. Krishna Poonia is the only other Indian woman discus thrower to have done that, in the 2012 London Games, so it fit that life would change for Kaur.
“I have been invited to so many functions since the Tokyo Olympics. Everywhere I go people ask me how their children can train to become an athlete. People have been coming to my house with their children asking where they can train to become a discus thrower or a javelin thrower,” said Kaur who is from Kabarwala in Punjab.
Kaur resumes training in Patiala next week. The Olympics are now a bunch of memories, some of them good. Kaur said she will focus on three major events in 2022 — the world championships and Commonwealth Games in July and the Asian Games in September.
“Whatever fame I have today is due to my efforts at the Tokyo Olympics but I want to forget about that and train hard for medals in three important events happening next year,” she said. Because making the podium in one or more of those events will give her the confidence to do better in Paris in the 2024 Olympics, Kaur said.
Daughter of a farmer, Kaur started as a shot-putter and also nurtured dreams of playing cricket for India. But it was Rakhi Tyagi, her coach, who convinced Kaur to shift focus.
Kaur first hit the headlines when she breached the 66m mark at the Indian Grand Prix IV this year, with a best of 66.59m. If she couldn’t do that in Tokyo, blame it on the rain. It has a way of creeping up on Kaur. It was because of the rain that Kaur missed qualifying for the 2018 Asian Games by one metre.
“I got a bit nervous due to the wet conditions,” Kaur said about Tokyo. “It becomes very challenging to perform in the rain. Earlier, for the Asian Games (2018), I missed out on qualification by one metre, because it was raining during the national event. In the next event, I threw around 61m which was equivalent to the Asian Games silver medal.
“I get scared of having an injury (when it rains). I will now be training in wet conditions to overcome that. Also, my coach (Tyagi) was not there in Tokyo. So, all this affected my final attempt,” said Kaur who idolises Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic.
Perkovic, a two-time defending champion, finished fourth in Tokyo.
An office superintendent with Indian Railways at Patiala, Kaur wants to work with Punjab Police and sounded miffed with the state government providing jobs only to medal winners in Tokyo.
“If a medal is required to get a job in the Punjab Police Department then I will work on it. But I would have been happy if they had offered to those athletes who did not win a medal but did well.”
Kaur is among the athletes who got ₹50 lakh from the Punjab government for their performance in Tokyo Olympics.
Kaur said she would resume training with specific focus on mental strength and delivering more power and speed into the discus. “I (also) think my technique is a bit slow in comparison to others and the American gold medallist Valarie Allman at Tokyo 2020. I will try to reduce my spin time inside the circle to bolster my throw,” she said.