Om Prakash Singh bettered the 12-year-old National record in shot put with a throw of 20.69 metres at a meet at Szombathely, Hungary, on Saturday. The 25-year-old Indian, a bronze medallist at the last Asian championships in Kobe, surpassed Shakti Singh's mark of 20.42m set in Chennai in July in the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In the process, the 2009 Asian champion also bettered the ‘A' standard for the London Olympics (20.50m), having achieved the ‘B' standard (20.00m) at Szombathely with a throw of 20.04m in July last year. He had improved upon it with an effort of 20.07m at the same venue last September.
That happened to be his best till Saturday when he had a series that contained five throws over 20 metres. He had 20.09, 20.60, foul, 20.40, 20.63 and 20.69.
In an e-mail message on Sunday, Om Prakash said the competition was held in cold and wet conditions. There was a break of 15 minutes after three rounds. The message did not contain any information regarding other competitors in his event.
He said after a standing throw of 18 metres during warm up, coach Anil Kumar, former National discus record holder, was sure that he would throw around 21.50m, but rain spoilt the rhythm.
“I have overcome the psychological barrier of National record which is special for any athlete, and now I can go for the Asian record of 21.12 metres next month…at the same venue,” Om Prakash stated. He had crossed 20 metres for the first time in 2009.
Apart from his approved record of 20.42, Shakti also had a performance of 20.60m in Bangalore on July 5, 2000. That was, however, not ratified since there was no dope-testing there. Since those days, the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) does not ratify National records if dope testing is not conducted at the competition. At least that is its policy on paper.
Om Prakash is now ninth in the world lists for the season. The top seven including four Americans have marks over 21 metres with the leading man, Reese Hoffa (US) at 21.73m.
World champion David Storl of Germany and bronze medallist at the Daegu Worlds, Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus, are among those athletes who are yet to begin their outdoor season.
Om Prakash said he was looking forward to competing in the Diamond League meetings in Europe in July (Paris and London) in his build-up towards the Olympics where he hoped to get into the medals bracket.
He praised his coach, Anil Kumar, especially for helping him overcome a lean stretch through 2010 when he finished fifth (19.51m) in the Commonwealth Games and fourth (19.17m) in the Asian Games.
The Haryana athlete had been training in Hungary for the past two years under Anil. He also thanked his employer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the Sports Authority of India, the AFI, the Sports Ministry and Olympic GoldQuest (OGQ). Apart from financial support from the government (Rs. 48 lakh sanctioned), Om Prakash is supported by OGQ, and also gets a scholarship under Olympic Solidarity.