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A judoka takes ‘ice bath’ in a drum filled with ice and water as others wait for their turn at the end of their day’s practice at the Judo Training Center in Gurdaspur, Punjab, India. August 04, 2016.

Indian Olympic athlete Avtar Singh has blazed a trail that 15-year-old Rohit hopes to follow—to sporting glory and, perhaps more important, to a secure government job.

The first Indian man to qualify for the Olympics in judo in more than a decade, Singh, 24 years old, grew up here, in the same small town where Rohit lives, and trained for more than seven years in the same high-school gym.

June 07, 2016. A training session on Root Cause and Corrective Action in progress at the Advanced Craftsmanship Center on the Tata Advanced Systems Limited campus at Adibatla in the south Indian city of Hyderabad. CREDIT: Harsha Vadlamani for The Wall Street Journal.

Having signed a string of multibillion-dollar orders from foreign firms to make parts for helicopters, jet fighters and trains, India is struggling to find people with the skills to build them.