Target is Gold: Indian sportspersons prep for Olympics

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‘Medallist ped pe nahi ugte, unhe banana padta hai…’ said actor Aamir Khan on screen, while portraying wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal (2016), when it was the pre-Covid era. It holds true off the screen too, and more so in the Covid stricken world, when it has only become tougher for the Indian sportspersons to prove their metal. On International Olympic Day (June 23) — celebrated annually to commemorate the setting up of the International Committee on this day in 1894, and hence, the birth of the modern Olympic Games. The Olympics, which owe their origins to ancient Greece, is undoubtedly the most prestigious sporting event in the world. And the Indian sportspersons who have qualified in huge numbers for this year’s event are prepping rigorously. They’ve had very few or no tournaments last year, owing to the pandemic. But they remain undeterred to give their 100% in practise, which includes paying the right amount of attention to their nutrition intake, exercise regimen, and everything that’s required to bring glory as they represent the country in the international arena.

Bajrang Punia unwinds while cooking and listening Haryanvi folk

(Photo: Vipin Kumar/HT)

Freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia, seeded in the 65kg category, is currently training at the Regional Sports and Sport Public Organisation at Vladikavkaz, Russia. He says his diet depends on the type of training, and which day he’s planning to take it. “On off days I don’t eat too much calories because I need to maintain my weight. On training days I cycle my macros accordingly. I take suggestions from my coach and physio if I feel the provided food is a bit confusing,” says Punia, adding, “The Russian people have a potato and meat based diet so it gets a bit tricky sometimes (laughs). We have different training protocols during off season and a different one during competitions. I generally stick to the program given by my coach and support staff. It’s easier that way because I get more time to learn and improve.”

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The 27-year-old Padma Shri awardee reveals that to unwind, he takes to cooking, listens to music, reads interesting articles and watches videos on the internet. “I don’t go for what is popular but rather would do something interesting and informative. That way I don’t feel I’m wasting my time. Also, I listen to folk music (ragini) more that the latest popular ones. Folk music is traditional and sometimes it has very good messages,” he adds.

And where his mental health is concerned, he says his strength comes from “learning from mistakes” and not making it his demon. Sharing his motto, he opines: “I believe that the only way to get mentally strong is to work on your flaws rather than trying to hide and not depending on others for your success, which makes you weak on all fronts. Seek help, but don’t be dependent!”

Manika Batra’s secrets: Books, music and dance to detach

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(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Table tennis champion and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee Manika Batra, 26, is prepping for Olympics, and how! The Delhi girl who shot to fame by winning two gold medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is presently training at India Khelega Centre at SP College in Pune.

Talking about her diet, she shares how it includes a lot of proteins, adequate vitamin and mineral intake for muscle recovery. “I’m taking fibre for digestion and absorption. I do a lot of stretching in the morning and post TT training, some strength training, and small sessions of agility and mobility as per the requirement of the training.”

But that’s not all, for a healthy body is only built by a healthy mind. And for that, Batra says, “I’ve been reading books that motivate me, and I listen to music to be calm and cheerful. A dance, when alone, also allows a lot of relaxing to the mind and positivity to the heart. And meditation, as and when necessary for the court preparation!”

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Shivpal Singh loves listening to Punjabi songs

(Photo: Instagram)
(Photo: Instagram)

One of India’s top bet in javelin throw, Shivpal Singh is currently training at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports in Patiala. The 26-year-old track and field athlete had recently met an ankle injury a few months back, and is now inching towards the Olympics, taking each step cautiously.

Taking a diet rich in protein, and all the necessary multivitamins and minerals, he’s following a disciplined routine to perform his best! “I wake up at 6am and do my training from 7.30am to 10am. I then go for breakfast, and after lunch comes later. There’s training again in the evening, from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. My dinner is sharp at 9pm, and I sleep at 10.30pm. Between all this, I love listening to Punjabi music and watching throwing related videos on the internet,” says Singh.

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Sandeep Kumar believes in ‘positive visualisation’

(Photo: Facebook)
(Photo: Facebook)

Race walker Sandeep Kumar is one of the few athletes who has beaten down Covid-19, and is now geared up to fight back anything that comes between him and his Olympic dream! The 35-year-old hailing from a farming family in Mahendragarh district of Haryana, had to train on paddy fields at his own farmlands, for three months during the lockdown.

He has previously broken a record at the National Race Walking Championship in 2018, and recalls how he had never heard of the sport until he joined the army. His admission into the Jat Regiment Centre led him to take up race walking professionally. And today, his Olympic prep involves ample protein including dal, daliya, chapati. “My training involves me to do 200 to 250 kilometre race walking. I train for three to four hours every morning and evening. Shareer ko ussi hisaab se dhaalna padta hain, hard training karni padti hai. During the morning time, I do positive visualisation ki aaj ka training achha ho, successful ho,” says Kumar, confessing that he loves is to savour the occasional halwa and kheer in small portions!

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Sending positive thoughts in the universe for victory, Kumar adds: “Jab khaoge aur mehnat karoge, tabhi toh shareer mein sab kuch achha lagta hai. Apna target toh complete karna hi hota hai… Bas desh ke liye acha karna hai.”

Music at gym, mind training for Manu Bhaker

(Photo: Sanjeev Verma/HT)
(Photo: Sanjeev Verma/HT)

Pistol shooter Manu Bhaker’s schedule is laid down to the T and is nothing short of perfect! And why not, for the 19-year-old is the only one from India’s squad of 15 who is to compete in three events in her first ever Olympics! Focusing on doing her best for herself and the country, she’s opting for everything that can keep her strong physically and mentally. Her schedule is laid down to the T and is nothing short of perfect.

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“My mantra is to Go for Gold,” says Bhaker, who is presently training in Zagreb (Croatia’s capital), and shares with us that her diet includes simple vegetarian Indian foods, salads, and cow’s milk. Giving an hourly low down of her schedule, she elucidates: “I get up at 5.30am and that’s when my daily routine starts. I do yoga from 6am to 7am, then have breakfast from 7am to 8am. Take the range bus at 8.10am, and from 8.30am to 2pm I’m at the shooting range. Then from 2.15pm to 2.45pm is my lunch followed by my study period for college from 2.45pm to 4pm. I head to the gym from 4pm onwards, and 5.30pm is physio session. Dinner’s at 7pm after which I’ve spots mind training from 8pm to 9pm. I call my family back home, from 9pm to 9.15pm, and go to bed at 9.15pm. During the practice and while at the gym, I listen to music.”

Mythological books help Krishna Nagar de-stress

(Photo: Instagram)
(Photo: Instagram)

He’s not the world’s no 2 para-badminton player without reason. One needs to see Krishna Nagar to believe the force and balance with which he ‘loves’ the game. The Jaipur born para shuttler is all set to make his debut at Paralympics this year, and is currently training rigorously in Lucknow.

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“In the morning, kayi baar mai breakfast nahin karta khelne se pehle, and I keep a fruit with me that I can have in between the training session that goes from 9am to 11am. Then I have another session at 6pm to 8pm. Five to six hours toh normal hain, for training. Kabhi kabhi isse zyada bhi ho jata hai,” says the 21-year old, who recently clinched two gold medals at Dubai 2021 Para Badminton International, this April.

He grins at how people point out his resemblance with cricketer Virat Kohli, and adds that the banter with his fellow players keeps him mentally calm. “Training sessions se pehle mai strengthening bhi karta hoon. Abhi athletes ne sessions ke timing bada diye hain kyunki Olympics ke liye time kam bachha hai. Workout ka time bhi bada hai,” he informs, adding: “What helps me de-stress are mythological books! Koshish yeh rehti hain ki positivity rahe life mein.”

Author tweets @Nainaarora8

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