by Disha Pawar
“Didn’t have an Indian Jersey to run in, as I wasn’t provided with one”, says national record holder Siddhanth Thingalaya.
It was 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam when a young hurdler broke into the Indian books of record holders with a junior national record of 13.96 seconds in 110 metres hurdles that Siddhanth Thingalaya came into the forefront. Since then, he has continued to dominate in the discipline by breaking his own record year on year.
Currently holding the national record in 110m hurdles with a time of 13.48 seconds, Siddhanth still has a long way to go until Tokyo 2020. If things do work in his stride, he will be the only Indian hurdler in this discipline to participate in Olympics in 56 years.
Ahead of Word Championship next year and his preparations for Olympics, FistoSports got in touch with Siddhanth to talk about his career that he so gracefully dominates in the Indian scene.
2018 started on a high for you but as it came to a close, it saw you skip one of the biggest Asian sporting events- Asian Games 2018. How do you sum up the season?
I represented India at the World Indoor Championship in 2018 and in fact have been the only Indian athlete to have done so far in the history of India’s hurdling events, so the year did start well. However, I was a little disappointed with how federation managed the entire process. I got the confirmation for participation from my federation at the last minute and thereafter all the arrangements from the visa to arrangement of tickets were solely my responsibility.
It was a long flight from USA to UK and I reached just one day prior to the meet, my coach was not provided with an accreditation card and I had to manage everything on my own, luckily I had my old Asian games Indian jersey that I carried with me or else I had no Indian jersey to run in as I wasn’t provided with one, and also it was snowing heavily had to acclimatize to the same.
The next day I ran my race amidst all these hassles, I was disturbed mentally physically and financially. After that I flew down to India for the selection trials and ran the very next day. I was exhausted and had also requested the federation to keep the hurdles on the last day which they did and then changed it again on to the 3rd day making it hard for me. I happen to run an average time of 13.75 seconds and didn’t qualify. During the Asian games trials I made a lot of errors during my final race as I didn’t have a clean race as I hit a lot of hurdles which slowed down my pace. I was very close to the qualifying mark but then didn’t get considered for a re-trials and eventually couldn’t run the Asian games.
How do you plan to prep for Tokyo 2020? You do know that if you make it to Olympics, you will be the first in 56 years to do so? Do you feel any sort of pressure?
Preparations have already begun, there are a lot of aspects I am working on this year to have an error less race, 2019 will have the World championships which will happen in Qatar. My aim is to improvise my time further and have a consistent race this season. Also, to achieve an early qualifying time for the Olympics so that I can start my preparations for it. I don’t like taking pressures whether I am going to the Olympics after 56 years or 1 year, my vision is to be a contender and make my presence felt in the hurdling community.
I am going there with a gold in my mind, second place is not in option. I like to think that it keeps me positive mentally.
Juggling between two countries is always difficult, more so if an athlete is not included the topmost sports schemes. How helpful has the govt. been in shaping your career?
It is very difficult to travel between two countries. Traveling 24 hours in itself takes a toll on your health and secondly it’s very expensive as the dollar rate is rising. Honestly, there has been no help from the government so far. I had to bear the expenses for both the world indoor and outdoor championship which is yet to be reimbursed. Even the Maharashtra state government does not provide anything, my name is under the mission Olympic scheme and the money is due since last April. So when it comes to support for athletes there isn’t any. I ran the national games in 2015 and won a gold medal for Maharashtra and guess what? I received the prize money of 5 lakhs only now. So basically we are four years behind in supporting our athletes in Maharashtra. Currently I am on my own with help from my sole supporters- my parents. Apart from them, my brothers and some close friends helped me with raising funds along with some who come to show support with their influence.
A lot of national level champions are also seen struggling to get deserved recognition. How do you think the athletes can be motivated?
The attitude needs to be optimistic towards athletes from various organizations and associations. More tournaments should be conducted for athletes to prepare. The meets need to be conducted on synthetic tracks with electronic timers.
We need more active sports persons, someone like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who would understand sports and would genuinely want to help athletes.
How difficult does it get to hold on to your passion in trying times?
Hurdles as a passion is like an art for me. It’s not at all hard for me to hold on to my passion as I don’t take pressure from outside. I love this art and I am happy that I have been able to create an impact in the hurdling scene. It has bought a lot of discipline my life. This event demands a lot and I am fulfilling those demands slowly. I believe in my passion. I am happy that I am a hurdler and now the world knows that there’s this hurdler from India who is quick and can give many a run for their money.
Have you ever felt like giving it all up and settling down for a well-paying job? Has there been pressure from family?
If I let my mind tilt towards the others side and think about leaving all this and settle down for a well-paying job, is it really going to be that easy? It’s going to be the same, again! I’ll have to start from the bottom and keep moving forward towards becoming someone in that company and the process will continue, the hunger to achieve more will never stop. Maybe that’s how I am, I would like to taste success in that field too. So I won’t ever think of quitting my passion, rather work towards achieving more and more. My event has taught me that hurdles are part of life and we have to master the technique to overcome it.
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