indian sport

A year since Rio: Judoka Avtar Singh aims even higher after first taste of Olympics

With the exposure and support received after Rio, he is looking forward to win a medal for India at other multi-sport events.

It has now been a year since the Rio Olympics, in which India won only two medals – a silver by shuttler PV Sindhu and a bronze by Sakshi Malik in the repechage round. But there were several other positive stories coming out of Rio for Indian sport. One of them was Avtar Singh, the first Indian judoka to qualify for the Olympics in 12 years. What made his journey even more interesting is the fact that he made it to Rio despite lack of finances, federation support and international experience.

The Indian Judo Federation was derecognised by the government, which meant he had no funds to participate in tournaments outside India. His parents had to invest all they had in his career and then had to crowdfund their own trip there to watch him as he reached the Olympic stage overcoming all odds.

Singh lost to Popole Misenga of the Olympics Refugee Team’s in the round of 32 of the men’s 90 kg event. But his experience in Rio has had a huge impact on the 25-year-old, both mentally and on his training and preparation. With the exposure and support received in the aftermath of the Olympics, he is working hard to ensure he wins a medal for India at other multi-sport events in the future.

Singh at the Rio Olympics. Image Credit: Reuters
Singh at the Rio Olympics. Image Credit: Reuters

The Field caught up with Avtar Singh a year after Rio, to find out how his life has changed.

After becoming an Olympian, there have been a lot of positive changes in my life, which is all about this sport [judo]. People’s perspectives about me and the sport is one such thing. Today, everyone is supportive. They say ‘keep it up’ and ‘you’ll go ahead’, and such things, in my opinion, are a big boost.

When my parents go out, they meet people who recognise them and ask them about their son who went to the Olympics. There is no prouder feeling than this for a son. For a middle-class family, this is a huge deal.

India is not very good at judo and earlier nobody even knew much about the sport or me. But today when I go out in my city [Gurdaspur] or where I work [as sub inspector for the Punjab Police] people recognise me. The department is also supporting me more, they used to support me earlier as well, but today they are going out of their way to do it.

Financial support

Impact Guru helps me with funds right now. Epic Channel, where Virender Sehwag has a show called Umeed India, and the first episode on it was about my career. So I am getting a lot of support through these things and it’s giving me a lot of positive power, as I call it.

The video made about me was shared on social networks and that has helped collect funds. If in the future I get this money, I will use it for my training and other such needs.


JSW Sports has been supporting me as well, but now their support is even greater. They have an excellent new training centre in Bellary. After the Olympics, this is the first time I have seen such a huge and well equipped gym. Everything else – diet, nutrition – is all very good. [Parth] Jindal Sir has told me that, ‘You go and play, we will support you.’ I now have a few sponsors in my city and district as well and they have told me that are backing me as well. Slowly, people are taking a lot more interest in judo. It’s like having a shoulder to lean on.

Setting his sights higher

There is a huge difference in my training since Rio. Earlier the aim was just to qualify for the Olympics. Now, I am training to win an Olympic medal. So, accordingly, I am strengthening my skills.

Imagine there is a wall five-feet tall, there is a 10-feet wall ahead of it and after that there is a lot more. But we will have to cross the five-feet wall first, right? Then we can go for 10 feet. I have crossed the first line, next is the 10-feet wall and then only you can get a medal and I am completely focussed on that.

My coach is Yashpal Singh Solanki, an Arjuna awardee in judo, and he has mentored me for six years now and I reached the Olympics only because of him. I am a child in front of him at 25 years, his career itself is 24 years long. Can you imagine his experience? The combination of his experience along with my practice and hard work is what brought us ahead.

Future goals

I have played some 20-25 tournaments in international halls in my career, but when I entered the Olympic hall… I can’t describe the feeling, you just feel, ‘Oh my god’. The feeling I experienced... you know what it feels like? When our national anthem is played. I can’t explain why, but that’s the feeling. And I want to experience that feeling again. I am very positive now, I will get a medal now, I won’t let it go till I have one

Right now, I am taking it one step at a time. I am preparing very seriously for the Asian Games. I’ll win a medal there and with that medal I will qualify for the Olympics. Before that, I am leaving for the world championships later this month, then there is the Commonwealth Championship in Jaipur in the last week of January and there are a few tournaments after that as well.

With the support of people and the positive power of the country and family, I promise I will give my everything to get a medal the Olympics.

As told to Zenia D’cunha.

Do you prefer your favourite sports stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday? We have got you covered. Subscribe to The Field’s newsletter.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

The perpetual millennial quest for self-expression just got another boost

Making adulting in the new millennium easier, one step at a time.

Having come of age in the Age of the Internet, millennials had a rocky start to self-expression. Indeed, the internet allowed us to personalise things in unprecedented fashion and we really rose to the occasion. The learning curve to a straightforward email address was a long one, routed through cringeworthy e-mail ids like You know you had one - making a personalised e-mail id was a rite of passage for millennials after all.

Declaring yourself to be cool, a star, a princess or a hunk boy was a given (for how else would the world know?!). Those with eclectic tastes (read: juvenile groupies) would flaunt their artistic preferences with an elitist flair. You could take for granted that and would listen to Bollywood music or read Archie comics only in private. The emo kids, meanwhile, had to learn the hard way that employers probably don’t trust candidates with e-mail ids such as

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

And with chat rooms, early millennials had found a way to communicate, with...interesting results. The oldest crop of millennials (30+ year olds) learnt to deal with the realities of adolescent life hunched behind anonymous accounts, spewing their teenage hormone-laden angst, passion and idealism to other anonymous accounts. Skater_chick could hide her ineptitude for skating behind a convincing username and a skateboard-peddling red-haired avatar, and you could declare your fantasies of world domination, armed with the assurance that no one would take you seriously.

With the rise of blogging, millennial individualism found a way to express itself to millions of people across the world. The verbosity of ‘intellectual’ millennials even shone through in their blog URLs and names. GirlWhoTravels could now opine on her adventures on the road to those who actually cared about such things. The blogger behind could choose to totally ignore petunias and no one would question why. It’s a tradition still being staunchly upheld on Tumblr. You’re not really a Tumblr(er?) if you haven’t been inspired to test your creative limits while crafting your blog URL. Fantasy literature and anime fandoms to pop-culture fanatics and pizza lovers- it’s where people of all leanings go to let their alter ego thrive.

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Then of course social media became the new front of self-expression on the Internet. Back when social media was too much of a millennial thing for anyone to meddle with, avatars and usernames were a window into your personality and fantasies. Suddenly, it was cool to post emo quotes of Meredith Grey on Facebook and update the world on the picturesque breakfast you had (or not). Twitter upped the pressure by limiting expression to 140 characters (now 280-have you heard?) and the brevity translated to the Twitter handles as well. The trend of sarcasm-and-wit-laden handles is still alive well and has only gotten more sophisticated with time. The blogging platform Medium makes the best of Twitter intellect in longform. It’s here that even businesses have cool account names!

Self-expression on the Internet and the millennials’ love for the personalised and customised has indeed seen an interesting trajectory. Most millennial adolescents of yore though are now grownups, navigating an adulting crisis of mammoth proportions. How to wake up in time for classes, how to keep the boss happy, how to keep from going broke every month, how to deal with the new F-word – Finances! Don’t judge, finances can be stressful at the beginning of a career. Forget investments, loans and debts, even matters of simple money transactions are riddled with scary terms like beneficiaries, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS and more. Then there’s the quadruple checking to make sure you input the correct card, IFSC or account number. If this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s the long wait while the cheque is cleared or the fund transfer is credited. Doesn’t it make you wish there was a simpler way to deal with it all? If life could just be like…

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Lo and behold, millennial prayers have been heard! Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first, has now integrated UPI on its digital platform, making banking over the phone easier than ever. Airtel Payments Bank UPI, or Unified Payment Interface, allows you to transfer funds and shop and pay bills instantly to anyone any time without the hassles of inputting any bank details – all through a unique Virtual Payment Address. In true millennial fashion, you can even create your own personalised UPI ID or Virtual Payment Address (VPA) with your name or number- like rhea@airtel or 9990011122@airtel. It’s the smartest, easiest and coolest way to pay, frankly, because you’re going to be the first person to actually make instant, costless payments, rather than claiming to do that and making people wait for hours.

To make life even simpler, with the My Airtel app, you can make digital payments both online and offline (using the Scan and Pay feature that uses a UPI QR code). Imagine, no more running to the ATM at the last minute when you accidentally opt for COD or don’t have exact change to pay for a cab or coffee! Opening an account takes less than three minutes and remembering your VPA requires you to literally remember your own name. Get started with a more customised banking experience here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel Payments Bank and not by the Scroll editorial team.