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Shakti calls it a day

V.V. Subrahmanyam

HYDERABAD : One of the most familiar faces of Indian athletics, shot putter Shakti Singh, has called it a day. He announced it at the GMC Balayogi Stadium (Gachibowli) here on Tuesday. It was here that he won the gold in the inaugural Afro-Asian Games in 2003.

The 43-year-old discus thrower and shot putter's career spanned from 1987 to 2005 which included a silver in the 1998 Asian Games (18.81m in shotput), gold in the 2000 Asian championship (19.77m), bronze in the 2002 Asian Games (18.27) and discus gold in the 1997 National Games (58.56 m).

Shakti Singh hails from Dhighawa Jattan village of Bhiwani district in Haryana. He was inspired by the performances of Bahadur Singh, now the chief coach of Indian team and drifted into throwing events by a quirk of fate.

Originally a decathlete, he went to Ranchi for the 1987 inter-State athletic meet, the organisers cancelled the event and included discus and shotput events instead. This was as per the then plans of the Federation ahead of the 1990 Asian Games. Left with no option, Shakti Singh tried his hand in discus to come up with 49.08 m in his very first attempt that booked him a slot in the Indian team.

Famous for his longevity record, he has no regrets on quitting. "Why should I? I am happy with whatever I have achieved. Honestly, I do believe that I have set some standards in the throwing events. Now, we have some very good throwers who are good at Asian level," he said.

Shakti Singh said he is now donning the role of a coach to help realise his dream of seeing an Indian win a medal in the Olympics. He was once ranked No.5 in the world in shot put and eighth in discus. "For a man who had no sporting background and coming from such a remote place, I think I have done something worthy of recognition," said a smiling Shakti Singh.The shotputter whose career best is 20.60 m in 2000 and 61.72 m in discus in 1994, said he had to switch from discuss to shotput because of a knee operation in mid-90s.

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