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Akshdeep Singh: From pavements to Paris Olympics

Akshdeep Singh, a farmer's son from Punjab, overcame hardships to become the first Indian racewalker to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Akshdeep Singh: From pavements to Paris Olympics

Racewalker Akshdeep Singh holds the national record in 20km racewalking with a timing of 1.19.38s. (Photo Credit: Aksheep Singh/Instagram)


Kamakshi Deshmukh

Updated: 29 Jun 2024 12:12 PM GMT

Akshdeep Singh, a racewalker from Kahneke village in Punjab’s Barnala district, became the first Indian athlete to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Born to a farmer, Akshdeep has emerged as a beacon of perseverance. Initially dreaming of joining the Indian Army, he transformed himself into a national-level athlete after being inspired by army aspirants in his village.

Despite facing numerous challenges, including financial hardships and injuries, Akshdeep’s dedication to his sport has led him to set national records and inspire countless others with his story.

Early life and dreams of joining the Army

Young Akshdeep was drawn to the idea of serving his country through the Indian Army. “When I was ten years old, my dream was to join the Army through a recruitment drive,” he said in an interview with Sportstar.

Motivated by the young aspirants training in his village, Akshdeep started preparing for a military career at the age of 15. “At that time, I was running fast, and even the elder village youths who were training for the Army praised me for this. They suggested that I should become an athlete,” he shared.

His journey took a significant turn when he met coach Jaspreet Singh at a stadium in Barnala. “The coach suggested that I should opt for racewalking. I initially did not like it as I was keen on running,” he admitted.

However, this advice would change his life.

In December 2016, Akshdeep relocated to Patiala to train under coach Gurdev Singh, where he began to master the sport.

Overcoming achievements and setbacks

Akshdeep’s initial success was marked by a bronze medal at the under-18 North India Championship in Tarn Taran. This was followed by silver medals at the under-18 junior nationals and the All India University Games in 2017.

Within a year, he won gold at the All India Inter-University Games and set a new national record in the U-20 10km nationals in 2018, ranking sixth globally in his age category.

However, his dreams were shattered in 2019 due to a knee injury that kept him from competing in the World University Games in Italy. Despite a promising comeback, he only secured 12th place at a national event in February 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic further derailed his plans, forcing him back to work on his family’s farm.

During this time, Akshdeep faced significant financial struggles and even slept on the pavements to save money. His aspirations of competing in the Commonwealth Games were dashed when he was not selected for the Indian team, despite his best efforts.

This phase tested his resolve, but he remained undeterred. “My inner voice motivated me again to make my future in my sport,” he reflected.

Road to Paris Olympics

Determined to bounce back, Akshdeep moved to Bangalore in 2021 to resume training. His perseverance paid off when he shattered the 20km national record, clocking 1.19.55s, earning him a gold medal and a spot in the Paris Olympics. By attaining the qualification, he became the first Indian athlete to qualify for Paris 2024.

In 2023, he improved his time to 1.19.38s at the National Open Race Walking Competition in Chandigarh, breaking his own national record.

Now proudly serving in the Indian Navy, Akshdeep remains focused on his future goals.

“My coaches are happy, but we are not satisfied. We have to look ahead. If we think what I’ve done is a big thing, then we won’t be able to accomplish the next target. It’s not big and it’s not small. It’s just a goal that’s now over. Bus aage ka socho aur chalte raho (I just have to think of the next race and keep moving),” he said.

As he prepares for the Paris Olympics, the nation eagerly awaits his performance on the global stage.

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