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first_imgHeena SidhuThe Commonwealth Games is the focus of sports talk and aspirations in Punjab now. Sports has been a fix of sorts in the state for decades; the Maharajas indulged in it while lesser men too have not lagged behind. And now with the Games at the doorsteps, all eyes,Heena SidhuThe Commonwealth Games is the focus of sports talk and aspirations in Punjab now. Sports has been a fix of sorts in the state for decades; the Maharajas indulged in it while lesser men too have not lagged behind. And now with the Games at the doorsteps, all eyes are on medals, more so, because it has become a matter of prestige with the event being held at home. Be it hockey, wrestling, shooting, cricket or athletics, Punjabis excel in almost every kind of sport. In fact, there have been times when nine out of the playing 11 team members of the gold winning hockey Olympic teams have been from one small village in Punjab (Sansarpur, near Jalandhar-also referred to as the Mecca of Indian Hockey).Rajpal SinghWith such a history egging them on, Punjabi players are under pressure to perform at the Commonwealth Games. High on excitement but slightly low because of the negative publicity the Games are attracting, these players are readying to make India proud.”We have a well balanced team and we have a fair chance of winning a medal,” says Rajpal Singh, captain of the Indian Hockey team. Determination has always been Singh’s strength. After he won the best player award in the under-18 Asia cup in 2001 held in Malaysia, he said, ” One day I will definitely lead the senior team.” And he has proved himself. Singh honed his skills at Chandigarh’s Sector 42 hockey stadium. There were times when he used to pedal to the stadium for training.Singh, training at the Pune camp now, said, “The schedule is the same for any major international event.” Happy that he will be playing in front of a home crowd, he says, “I want to emerge as the leading scorer of the tournament. The home crowd usually acts as a 12th teammate.” The short-corner expertise is something that the team is perfecting which has made them number nine in the world and winners of Sultan Azlan Shah Tournament.Another hockey player, Sandeep Singh from Haryana had always wanted to represent the country in the FIH (International Hockey Federation) World Cup, which he did this February. Capped this August with an Arjuna award, he says, “It was the greatest moment of my life.” But he doesn’t want to stop here. “I want India to win the gold at the CWG and that day will be the biggest hour for our hockey fans.”Manavjit SidhuAnother CWG star, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, shooter who specialises in trap shooting and a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee, says, “The Government has invested huge money, so I think the only way I can give back is through bringing medals.” Sandhu has been training in Italy for the last few months and is hopeful that the CWG will inspire the youth. “We should get over with stories on the scams so that foreigners who come here leave with pleasant memories. It should not give a bad name to India.” Much of his time being taken up by training round-the-clock, Sandhu says, “We will be performing in front of the home crowd and it has to be our best.”Abhinav BindraThe maharaja of the shooting ranges, Abhinav Bindra is as modest in depicting his chances of winning a medal as would be an amateur shooter. Bindra who will compete in the 10 m air rifle event, was under training by his foreign coaches and was working on mental, physical and technical aspects of the game. He trains for about 40 hours a week, and in the last leg, is specifically training on the physical aspect of game.Ronjan SodiFor Ronjan Singh Sodhi, double trap shooter from Punjab , the CWG could be the beginning of a sports revolution. “Almost everyone is taking about the Games, positive or negative.” Sodhi who is basking in the glory of winning the World Cup held in Italy this June is all set for the CWG. Sodhi has been training in Australia and Italy and says, “When I started, I didn’t even have a gun of my own. But times have changed- all thanks to my family and the Government.” Sodhi who hails from Ferozepur region in Punjab , says, “I have been fascinated by guns since my childhood. When hunting was not banned, I used to accompany my grandfather to the fields.”Maha SinghMaha Singh, long-jump athlete, has his target set. “If I can jump at eight meters, I will get a medal for sure,” he says. Singh who is being trained under a Russian coach felt that changing his coaching style has helped a lot. Singh is proud of the CWG. “I am sure many parents after CWG would like their children to take up sports as their career.”When it comes to sports, Punjabi women are not far. Another promising medal prospect for India is Heena Sidhu, ranked 16th in the world who is competing in the senior category of the 10m air pistol. “Along with the physical training, I have included breathing exercises and meditation in my schedule to improve my concentration. The year so far has been good for me as I came fourth in the World Championship in America and missed a medal by a whisker in Munich.” Sidhu’s biggest support system is her father who accompanies her everywhere. “I am very optimistic of India ‘s chances in the CWG but I am not happy with the discordant noises being made about the poor management.”Hardeep KaurFor Hardeep Kaur, 30, selection for the CWG has been like a dream come true. This athlete from a small village Lehan near Ludhiana received a major setback in 2004 when she failed the dope test. But that is history now. “I am looking forward to go past 62m at the Delhi Games,” said Kaur. Initially, she excelled in shot-put and discus events at the junior national meets. But she came into prominence in 1999 when she won the hammer title at the national level. In the same year, she came in contact with former international hammer thrower Nirmal Singh and started taking her career more seriously. Kaur’s inspiration has been her elder sister Jagdeep who was the winner of the first women hammer throw event when it was introduced in the athletics calendar in the early 1990s. A few years ago, she got married to hurdler Gurpreet Singh.Harwant KaurThe discus throw, one of India ‘s best prospects for women, is being represented by three participants, chief of them being Harwant Kaur,32.Since 2005 after she played for the international meet, Asian Grand Prix at Singapore, Kaur has had issues- injuries and personal problems but now she is back with a better focus. “If she is able to repeat her Patiala performance, she should be one of the medalist,” said officiating AFI secretary Ravinder Chaudhary. Her younger brother is an international level low hurdler. And Harwant’s family is very encouraging. Perhaps that could be one of the factors that she has been around on the national scene for more than a decade and still going strong.Manjit KaurManjit Kaur,28, is one of those whose talent surfaced quite early. In fact, during a local school meet, Kaur was first spotted by athletics coach RS Sidhu in late 1990s.There was a time when this international level runner didn’t even have a good pair of running spikes and then Olympian and former international athlete, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa arranged for a pair of shoes for her.This talented athlete in roughly six years has made rapid strides to stardom in the domestic circuit.She set a new national mark of 51.05 seconds in 2004 at the National Circuit Atheltic Meet held in Chennai. A few years back, Manjit further got a boost to her career when she was inducted into the Punjab Police.Way back in 1995 during the junior national women hockey tournament, one of Haryana’s hockey team members scored 37 goals in one competition, setting a new record of sorts. She was none other than Surinder Kaur. Four years later when she donned senior colours, she scored 33 goals in the National hockey championship. With such talented sportsmen, India’s chances of lapping medals at the Delhi games stand high. Punjabi sportspersons are all set to make their state as well the country proud.We wish them luck.Rajpal Singh, 27Sport: HockeyDebut: Youth Asia Cup, 2001Big role: Leading the Indian hockey team in CWGHeena Sidhu, 20Sport: 10m air pistolMissed it: Chance of pocketing a medal in the opening competition in Changwon, KoreaNumber crunching: Ranked fourth in World Championship in AmericaRonjan Sodi, 27Sport: Double-trap shooterNumber game: 14 medals till date besides an Arjuna AwardFirst time: He won his first World Cup medal-a bronze in 2007Golden shot: Won the gold at the ISSF World Cup in Lonato in June this yearManavjit Sidhu, 34Sport: ShootingHighest honour: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2006Daddy’s footsteps: His father Gurbir Singh Sandhu was also an international level shooter and Arjun awardeeHarwant Kaur, 30Sport: Discuss throwPersonal best: 63.05 meters achieved in August 2004 in Kiev wineMiss chance: She contested at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but failed to reach the finalsManjit Kaur, 28Sport: Sprint athleteCurrent record: 400 m national record of 51.05 secondsHigh point: Arjuna Award in 2005Golden victory: In Doha Asian Games in 2006, she led India to a stunning 4 x 400 metres relay gold.Maha Singh, 27Sport: Long JumpWorld ranking: 38Latest Medals: Two silver and three bronze medals in the last Asian Grand Prix eventsLowest point: Faced a ban in 2003 on charges of dopingHardeep Kaur, 30Sport: Hammer throw tries to bring wineMedal cart: Silver medal at the 2002 Asian Championships, finished fourth at the 2003 Asian Championships and seventh at the 2006 CommonwealthAbhinav Bindra, 28Sport: ShootingFirst time: First Indian to win an individual gold at the Olympic Games, 2008Young turk: Youngest Indian participant in 2000 Olympicsadvertisementadvertisementadvertisementlast_img


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