Manpreet Kaur’s biggest inspiration is a five and a half year old sitting in front of a television back home in Patiala watching her win a gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in Bhubaneshwar.

Before she left home for the bi-annual meet, her daughter Jasnoor Kaur told her to bring home the gold in no uncertain terms. Kaur is constantly worried about her as she and her husband-turned-coach Karamjit Singh have to travel while leaving Jasnoor at home.

Although she is happier now, there was a time when Manpreet had stepped away from athletics on account of her pregnancy in 2010. Karamjit says, “Athletes practise near our house in Patiala. She used to watch them and tell me that she wanted to get back. In 2013, Manpreet took up the sport once again.”

Inspiration and commitment

Michelle Carter’s Olympic mark of 20-plus may be far away for the Punjabi but Manpreet isn’t shying away, “When men can land throws greater than 20 metres, so can we. The aim in London will be to throw greater than 19 metres”.

“I have always loved this event ever since I took it up in 2006. I had the sub-junior record of 15.44 metres but I had to stop training due to my baby,” Manpreet speaks about the beginnings.

The 27-year old was inspired by her cousin brothers, one of whom is a 100 metre runner and another of whom is a discus thrower. Her brother, Jagjit Singh was incidentally Karamjit’s coach and he is the one who brought the two together, according to her.

Karamjit also speaks about a change in technique post 2013, “Prior to 2010, she employed the glide technique. In 2013, her other coaches at NIS Patiala laughed when I suggested she use the rotational technique instead.”

He goes on to explain, “Her disadvantage is that most of her competitors are taller than her. The rotational technique compensates for that by using her upper body strength which she possesses a lot of. We made the change and now the results are there for everyone to see.”

The making of a champ

Life has been anything but easy for Manpreet though. Born into a family of five, the eldest of three siblings, Kaur lost her father, a farmer, at the age of 13. Her mother was paralysed three years later as her early days in sport were far from happy.

Though Kaur holds a job at the DCW Railways, Patiala along with Karamjit, who holds a ticket checker’s job at the Patiala Railway station. Karamjit says that his constant travelling has put him at odds with his employers and that he had to take out a sizeable loan to fund their expenses.

She also qualified for Rio but tragedy struck the family prior to the Olympics. “Bhupinder Singh, my father-in-law who was the sports fanatic in the house and had convinced me to train again had passed away in June. That really messed up my preparations,” says Manpreet with a tinge of sadness in her voice.

Karamjit concurs, “He was a pillar of support for her. After he passed away, I could not travel with her to Rio. I know all her techniques and her routines but I was not there to support her. I could only guide her over phone and that did not help at all.”

Manpreet, Karamjit insists, will only get better with time. “The first aim was to qualify for the Worlds. That is done. The next target is to better 19 metres. She has already thrown 19 plus in training. It’s not too far for her.”

On the day of the competition, Manpreet revealed that the weather was an issue for her, “I am not used to this humidity. It was tough for me here. But I will do better with more focus on all-weather conditions.”

She was visibly tensed as she fouled four of her throws. But she held firm as she prevailed in the end, “I was nervous as I could not land my last three throws but the 18.28 I threw in the end was enough. I felt that my fourth throw was better but it unfortunately turned out to be a foul.”

With momentum behind her, Manpreet heads into the IAAF World Championships full of confidence. Displaying strength through adversity, the Punjabi thrower may just spring a surprise or two there.