India's first Paralympic medal winner archer Harvinder Singh, who had turned his farm at a Punjab village into a practice ground during the lockdown, on Tuesday attributed his success to long hours of training, including "practice of tie shots and breathing exercises".
The 31-year-old Singh, whose legs stopped functioning properly due to adverse effect from an injection during his childhood, won a historic archery bronze in the men's individual recurve event in the just-concluded Tokyo Paralympics.
"I have put in a lot of hard work in these last few years that included training for seven-eight hours every day, including doing practice of tie shots, breathing exercises and mental conditioning," Singh said in a release issued by Paralympic Committee of India.
"I have also done practice to control my emotions and stay calm in pressure situations, which has come handy in Tokyo," he said.
Hailing from a middle-class farming family, Singh had dengue when he was just one-and-half years old and a local doctor administered him an injection that had an adverse effect and his legs stopped working properly.
In the bronze medal playoff, Singh was leading before Kim Min Su of Korea clinched the fifth set, shooting a perfect 10 to force a shoot-off where the Indian responded in style with a perfect 10 against the Korean's 8 for a 6-5 (26-24, 27-29, 28-25, 25-25, 26-27) (10-8) win.
If a match is tied after five sets, one arrow shoot-off decides the winner. Singh said he still couldn't believe that he is now a Paralympic medallist and the feeling is slowly sinking in.
"The dream that I had for such a long time has finally come true. The feeling of winning a medal at the Paralympics is slowly sinking in. I am very, very happy," said the archer from Ajitnagar in Punjab.
He is hoping that his achievement will inspire the next generation of para archers to win international medals for the country.
"I believe that this medal is a big milestone for para archery in India. I remember my Asian Para Games gold medal in 2018 saw a big upsurge in archers' participation at the National Championships.
"I hope this Paralympic medal will give hope and motivation to the differently abled players to play the sport," said Singh, who also acknowledged the support of his coaches, including Gaurav Sharma, PCI, Sports Authority of India and Archery Association of India.
Singh, who is hoping his Paralympic medal will fetch him a reputed job, has his eyes on next year's World Para Archery Championships in Dubai (February 18 to 27) and Asian Para Games in Hangzhou.
"The aim would be to continue the momentum and form. I will also be training to shoot under pressure as the focus now would be on doing well in the World Championships and Asian Para Games next year.
"Hard work, hard work and hard work! Keep working hard, continuing the process and keep believing yourself and the results will follow," he said when asked what advice he would give to youngsters.
Pursuing a PhD in economics at Punjabi University in Patiala, Singh is a also a painter and aspires to crack the UPSC examination some day, according to his coach Gaurav Sharma.