Sunday Chat: Nauraj’s Olympic medal dream

AS one of the few track and field athletes with the potential to reach world standards, high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa has soared to a level few Malaysians have been at. Already an Olympian, Nauraj has assured himself of making his World Championships debut on merit in London in August after breaking the national record a second time. He shares his thoughts with Timesport’s DEVINDER SINGH

Question: Having competed at the Rio Olympics last year, what did you derive from that experience?

Answer: I think Rio was great for me because I was finally able to perform well at a major competition. Previously at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, I underperformed. I was able to actually show that I am there to compete and to do my best, and be more comfortable competing against top-level athletes.

It was a good thing to take away from Rio. I don’t think I would have been able to perform well enough to compete at the Olympics if I had not competed at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

Q: Now that you have qualified for the World Championships, what goals have you set yourself for the rest of the year?

A: I would like to finish in the top 12 of the World Championships. There is a lot I can take back from the Singapore Open, on the things I have been working on.

One example is to separate my jumps from every attempt I take. I have had experience where in attempting to clear a height, I keep making mistakes with each attempt.

So I need to separate each attempt to be sure to jump well enough, especially heading into the third attempt. That is something I have been working on since last year. Like when I cleared 2.27m at my third attempt (in Singapore), I was able to separate my jumps, meaning to treat each jump differently.

Q: How is the relationship with your coach Alex Stewart?

A: It is very good and he is a very good role model for me. He’s a coach who breeds excellence. If he sees you not trying your best, whether you clear two metres or not, he won’t talk to you for a day or two. But if you did your best even if you failed to clear two metres, he’s fine with it. I’ve had the silent treatment over and over, most recently earlier this year in Australia.

Q: Your father has been a keen follower of your career. What does having family support mean to you?

A: It means everything to me. One key factor in achieving is family support. It’s a vital role. Mainly having them present at competitions, especially when I was younger and my family could travel to whereever I was competing, even in Kuala Lumpur. Obviously, now it’s more difficult because I compete overseas a lot.

Nauraj Singh Randhawa’s aim is to finish in the top 12 at the World Championships. Pix by Rosli Rahmat

Q: You have set two national records and won the 2015 Sea Games gold medal at Singapore’s National Stadium. What is it about this venue which brings the best out of you?

A: Honestly, I’ve never realised it but I will say it is a good track there and it could be a coincidence. I believe that it just happened to me at the right time and it so happened, it was in Singapore.

Q: Who can you credit the success you have achieved so far?

A: Definitely my coach. All the time and work he has invested in me in simply making me become the best that I can be. Also the Podium Programme who have been helping me, my psychologist, my lifestyle coach and Joerg Teichmann who helps me out when I’m back in KL.

Q: What is your ultimate aim in athletics?

A: My ultimate aim is to be an Olympic medallist. I’m looking to Tokyo 2020. The next two or three years will be important to achieve that aim. I have to keep doing what I am doing. It does not mean that now that I have reached this level, I start doing something different. I cannot neglect or forget those things I have done to get me where I am.

Q: Who is your role model in the sport?

A: I look up to Usain Bolt. He’s a legend. I watched him race in Rio and I’ve watched the documentary of his life. It has not been easy for him in reaching the top. What happened behind the scenes was really inspiring. He’s one of those athletes who is born to achieve greatness. I’m looking forward to Bolt’s farewell appearance in London.

Q: Where do you see Malaysian athletics going?

A: Since last year, Malaysian athletics has taken steps forward but it isn’t just here. Athletics all around the world is becoming more competitive. We are still improving and we’re not stagnant. The way I see it is heading in the right direction.

Q: As someone who has been to the Olympics and qualified for the World Championships, do you feel an added responsibility on your shoulders?

A: I don’t think so but if I’m able to inspire younger athletes, that is a privilege for me. I can see junior athletes look up to me and I do appreciate them coming to me to ask questions which I can answer. I always try to give good advise so they can do better than me. The most common thing they ask is how do you do it? Or at what level was I at their age. I just tell them I was where there are right now but they have to think about what they have to do next.