Harvinder Singh, India's top Para archer, had been practising at his farmhouse away from the crowd. Image Credit: IPC

Dubai: There is enough doubt if the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and the Paralympics can be eventually held on schedule next year, but that cannot really sway India’s ace Para archer Harvinder Singh from his dream of a Paralympics medal.

The nationwide lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic may have thrown his training schedule in disarray, but the 28-year-old has transformed his farm in a remote village in Ajitnagar, Haryana into a target practice venue.

It’s almost second nature for Singh, who suffered an impairment to his leg as toddler following a side effect of a dengue fever injection, to look at the positive side of things. “It’s difficult to not pursue your usual daily routine, stop training and stay indoors. But as a responsible individual we need to be safe.

“We have to look at the positive side, we now have one more year to train hard and be better prepared and achieve our goals,” said Singh, adding he has been shooting around 150 arrows every day.

Speaking to the International Paralympic Committee website, Singh, who won India’s first-ever gold medal in Para archery at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games (APG), said: “I have tweaked my training routine and I’m now focusing on shooting and physical training. Apart from shooting, I am working out with my physio – strengthening, conditioning and core exercises in the evening sessions.”

“Before the Asian Para Games, nobody knew me. I was happy that I lived up to my promise and above everyone’s expectations,” said Singh, adding that he had put four years of relentless effort in his pursuit for gold.

“It was one of the most difficult phases in my life; I had lost my mother 20 days ahead of the Games. But I kept my focus going and never let my motivation down and gave my best. Though I had worked hard, the gold medal was surely a surprise and it was all for my mother,” he said.

The 2018 Asian gold, according to Singh, has become his ‘pillar of strength’ and he remembers it whenever he is in difficult situation and tries to draw motivation from that moment.

“I keep telling myself – if you can succeed in such difficult times. Why can’t now?”

Last year at the Fazza Para Archery Championships, the archer had a disappointing campaign after having crashed out early in Dubai.

“I expected a lot from myself in that event and finally buckled under pressure. But then once again it was my APG 2018 spirit that boosted my confidence. I worked harder to secure my ticket to Tokyo 2020 with a ninth-place finish at the World Archery Para Championships in the Netherlands in June,” revealed Singh, who also took a bronze in Bangkok 2019 Asian Para Archery Championships.

A Masters and Doctoral degree-holder in Economics from Punjabi University, Singh still relies on his long-time coach Jiwanjot Singh Teja. “He (Jiwanjot) has now moved to Canada. But I am always in touch with him and seek his guidance. For mental toughness, he is the right person as he can lift my confidence and keep me motivated.”

The archer is backed by flagship programmes in India - the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) and Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) and that has added financial stability.

Asked about the postponement of the Games, Singh says matter-of-factly: “I was a little disappointed as I have been training hard but now we have to look ahead and move on. Humidity and wind will be the key factors in Tokyo. How better I can fight, these two factors will decide my fate in Tokyo,” asserted Singh, who is seeking training in Europe for cope up with the wind but that can happen once the travel resrictions are eased.

“I was hoping to train in Europe before the Games and also take part in two competitions in Italy and the Czech Republic. Getting some competition practice before the Games will also be important. I had prepared my proposal accordingly. Now, we have to wait and watch,” he signed off.