If you were given a chance to excel in any one sport of your choice, which one would that be? In case that doesn’t work out, what would your backup option be? Think of at least five of your most enjoyable sports. Done?
Now, just for a second, imagine having to ace all of them; all five, in one go.
While it may seem incredulous for most of us, it isn’t so for Raghav Jamwal, a History student at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, who has played eleven Nationals and three All-India Inter-University Fencing Championships, only to later discover his true calling in Modern Pentathlon, an infusion of five extremely difficult disciplines of sports including Fencing, Swimming, Pistol-Shooting, Show Jumping (Horse-Riding) and Running. Within only a year of his training, he attained Rank #2 for modern pentathlon in 2014 and was selected as one of the Indian qualifiers for Olympics at Asian Championships’15 held in Beijing, China.
DU Beat had the opportunity to interview Raghav Jamwal and discover how the toughest sport in the world proved to be his cup of tea!
Q. What inspired you to take up modern pentathlon- a combination of five extremely challenging sports, above all the other individual sports?
Raghav: I’ve always been passionate about playing sports. Unlike other children who raved more about the latest videogames or sci-fi/action television shows, my childhood was mostly spent outside my house, playing not one, but a variety of sports each day. If I continued playing just one kind of game, I would get bored of it too quickly. Therefore, I could never restrict myself to only one specific sport; each one fascinated me in its own way. This is what really led me to Modern pentathlon, as it gave me an opportunity to play and excel in five sports, uniquely exhilarating and completely different from each other in every way. It’s the mere fact of the whole sport being so challenging which attracts me the most. One has to constantly push oneself forward everytime.
Q. What does a typical day of training as a pentathlon athlete look like for you?
Raghav: Well, for starters, an ordinary day in a pentathlon athlete’s life is extremely tiring and very long. We don’t keep separate sports for each day of the week, but have to practice all five different sports, for minimum two hours each, every single day. So it adds up to at least ten hours of rigorous training each day, and sometimes even more, if required. It involves fencing with different strategies, running 3200 meters, shooting 10 meter air-pistol, 200 meters of freestyle swimming and horse riding which involves jumping over 12 barriers within only a minute’s time, that too, done repeatedly if not done perfectly. While running and swimming require an immense amount of physical strength, sports like fencing, shooting and horse riding are all equally mentally exhausting as well.
The days of training seem never ending to me sometimes. I would see athletes of other sports coming out of their second practice sessions, looking as tired as they could possibly be, getting ready to head back home, while we, on the other hand, would still be in our first session itself with so many more hours left to put in.
Thus, keeping everything else apart, it’s essential for one to be highly motivated all the time, without which, giving up seems to be the only option left.
Q. How do you fit the demands of all the five sports into your everyday life while maintaining a consistency in academics? Isn’t that a huge load?
Raghav: Yes, it certainly is. Balancing all five different sports together along with my college is truly burdensome. Being a perfectionist, if I feel I’m not doing my best in a specific sport, I put in as many hours as I possibly can until I ace each sport individually. Thus, in the end, I would be left with hardly any time for myself or other interests, let alone with any possible strength to attend lectures, complete assignments or prepare for my exams properly. Even though playing pentathlon clearly tops the list of my priorities, I still feel really bad if I’m left behind in my studies. Therefore, by honing my time management skills slowly and steadily, I have tried to become more organised. I now manage my weekly study schedules along with my practice sessions in such a way that neither do they clash with each other, and nor do I let one be sacrificed for another. By doing so, I not only play my favorite sports more enthusiastically but also enjoy studying my favorite subject and do well academically.
Q. What are your strongest and weakest disciplines? How good does an ‘all-rounder’ like you have to be, as compared to other sport athletes?
Raghav: My strongest disciplines are running and fencing. I started playing fencing in class eleven and even participated in many championships, so I already have much-needed experience in it, which only helps me to excel in that sport. Since shooting and horse-riding are entirely new sports for me, I tend to give extra attention to them and hope to perfect them very soon as well. However, I consider swimming as my weakest link, and therefore work extremely hard to overcome it, giving it every possible ounce of effort and energy as I can every day. As compared to other athletes, who only have to ‘eat, live and breathe’ one particular sport, we’re required to be five different set of athletes of five different sports, fulfilling each one’s needed set of skills and strategies, all in one single athlete alone. That too, all of them, being athletes of world standards individually.
Q. There is a popular saying, “The pentathletes are the perfect athletes, because in their bodies are both strength and speed.” Do you agree?
Raghav: Yes I completely agree. They have been given this exceptional title because of their sheer attempt to master five completely unique games requiring completely different set of qualities, both physical as well as mental. In this sport, we cannot push ourselves on sheer physical strength alone. This is where the mental toughness of an athlete plays an equally important role. Long hours of training also tend to improve our sense of self-discipline, quickly making us better and faster individuals with each passing moment. It’s common that while playing this sport, where one game may not go as expected, others may exceed our expectations. The point is to learn from the mistakes you make and always have something to improve on from every game. This regime may be much tougher than it sounds, but then that’s where the real fun lies; that’s what the ultimate challenge is. This is what makes us so different from all other sport athletes.
Q. Living in Delhi, which is known for its overwhelming culture of food, how do you maintain a strict diet that is required of you as an athlete?
Raghav: I personally find this the most challenging situation as an athlete. Been born and brought up in Delhi, I have an insane street food addiction which I absolutely have no control over. I not only enjoy indulging in deep fried dishes but also have occasional cravings for all kinds of chocolate desserts as well. Apart from the contrary belief of athletes having to follow a strict diet consisting of only few chosen fruits and veggies, luckily, choosing pentathlon ended up working in my favor and I did not have to sacrifice my love for food in any way. For a sport involving such grueling hours of training, food is known to function as a fuel for exceptional athletic performance. Thus, we’re required to consume large amounts of calories every day to avoid unnecessary burnout and fatigue. Still, I try to eat healthy as much as I can on most days, and then reward myself with huge bricks of ice creams and chocolates on others. Oh yes, we can afford them too!
Q. How was your experience as a competitor at the Asian Championships’15? Do you consider it to be your peak performance?
Raghav: It was truly a wonderful experience. The amount of global exposure that was provided in a pursuit of different goals and ambitions, all in one arena, was amazing. I learnt so much from this enlightening opportunity. I am now well aware of the world standards and know exactly how to improve myself and reach those levels. But no, I don’t consider it to be my peak performance as I feel this is just the beginning of my career and my selection as one of the qualifiers was only a stepping stone to reach my pinnacle of success. I promise to work really hard and give great performances by becoming an even better athlete in the future.
Q. What would be your ultimate achievement?
Raghav: My ultimate achievement would be to represent India in Olympics 2020 and bring back a medal in modern pentathlon.
Q. Apart from playing sports, do you have any other personal interests or hobbies?
Raghav: Of course. If there’s anything I’m truly passionate about other than sports, and absolutely can’t live without, it has to be food. I love cooking different cuisines of food, creating recipes with my own little twists and baking scrumptious desserts like cakes, pastries, cookies, etc. I even have a food blog. When I’m not training or playing any sport, I’m either traveling or mountaineering. I’m also a complete history buff and enjoy watching Family Guy whenever I am idle.
Q. Do you have any philosophy to live your life by?
Raghav: The only philosophy that I intend to live my life by is to remain focused on my dreams and do everything that is required of me with full perseverance and determination, no matter how many obstacles I may have to face. Even if the journey gets hard, one must remember that it’s all going to be worth it very soon.
In the end, Raghav Jamwal would like to thank the Deuce Fencing Club, and give credits to Mr. Satyavir and Mr. Rathi for all his successful achievements till date. Most of all, he would like to thank his sister for her undying support in his game.