Road to Rio: Dharambir Singh, first Indian male sprinter in Olympic 200m after 36 years

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Rio-Olympics

Name: Dharambir Singh
Age: 27
Discipline: Athletics
Category: Men’s 200m

Qualification: Passed the Olympic mark of 20.50 secs with a timing of 20.45 secs at the Indian Grand Prix Athletics event in Bengaluru in July 2016.

Strengths: Despite several obstacles in his preparations, Dharambir has constantly improved his timing. From 21.20 seconds at 2010 Commonwealth Games to 20.45 in his latest race at the Indian Grand Prix Athletics in Bengaluru, the sprinter has raised his standard with every landmark event. An appearance at the 2016 Olympics could spur him to put up a better show once again.

Past Olympic performance: Debut

Past record: Bronze medal in Men’s 200m at 2015 Asian Athletics Championship in Wuhan

Rio Prospects: Dharambir has done extremely well to qualify for the Olympics, but with the likes of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin in his category, the Haryana-born sprinter has little chance of a medal.

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Dharambir-SinghDharambir Singh became the first Indian athlete to qualify for the 200m Athletics event at the Olympic Games after a gap of 36 years, when he broke his previous personal best timing at the Indian Grand Prix Athletics in Bengaluru in July 2016.

Born in the Ayajab village in Rohtak district in Haryana, Dharambir started off his sporting career as a kabaddi player at the school level, before trying his luck at high jump later. He was then a part of the 4x400m relay team, before finally deciding to focus on 100m and 200m events. “I am happy with what I have achieved. I have a national record in my name. I know I have the potential to run faster,” he told Indian Express in 2015.

But the sprinter’s road to Rio has been full of difficulties. Born in a peasant’s family, there weren’t enough funds available to support his training and dietary demands. Dharambir used to work as an LIC agent to fuel his athletic dreams. But the sprinter could only earn Rs 16,000 a month, when the expenditure for his equipment, training and diet cost him around Rs 40,000 monthly, his coach Ramesh Sindhu revealed to Times of India.

Dharambir’s preparations for the qualifying event included shuttling between his job, training and helping his father in the wheat fields that were often victims of unseasonal rains. But thanks to Dharambir’s fellow villagers, along with a small business house, who helped him raise funds to buy the necessary equipment, the 27-year-old has made history. Samunder Singh Nain, sarpanch of Ayajab, said the village contributed Rs 4.5 lakh towards buying good quality spikes and paying for training expenses last year.

“My event begins on 16 August so I still have time to better my timings further. I have analysed the competition I have. Obviously it is not going to be easy but if the weather is conducive and I am able to give my 100 percent, I might just hit the sub 20 second mark,” Dharambir said ahead of the Olympics.

Despite encountering one problem after the other, the sprinter never let anything deter him from achieving his goal, which was to compete at the Olympics. With the qualification for the 2016 Games sealed, he is set to experience the greatest moment in his career in Rio next month.

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