For a man who couldn’t get a hang of how to lift the bar for the longest time, weightlifter Gururaja Poojary said he hasn’t done too badly for himself as he reflected on the silver around his neck that opened India’s medal account in the 21st Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
The 25-year-old, hailing from a small village in Karnataka, could hardly stop smiling as he soaked in the attention that came with being the ceremonial account-opener at the quadrennial event.
The moment didn’t come easy, as his first two attempts in clean and jerk had been declared invalid and he was under tremendous pressure in the final attempt.
“After I failed the first two attempts, my coach reminded me how much my life depends on this. I remembered my family and my country,” he said when asked what went through his mind in those nervy moments.
Gururaja equalled his personal best of 249kg (111kg+138kg) to finish second.
“When I started in 2010, in the first month of my training, I was so frustrated because I didn’t even know how to lift a bar. It was too heavy for me,” he said.
That is hardly something an aspiring weightlifter would complain of, only that Gururaja aspired to be a wrestler, inspired by a certain Sushil Kumar.
“I remember I had seen Sushil Kumar wrestle in the 2010 CWG, I was just starting weightlifting at that time. When I saw him I really wanted to take up wrestling. Then I met my coach Rajendra Prasad who taught me weightlifting,” he said.
“I was trying to be a 42kg category wrestler and it (weightlifting) seemed impossible to me. Eventually, I got a hang of it,” he added.
An employee of the Indian Air Force, Gururaja has seen all the proverbial hardships of life that athletes from humble backgrounds endure in India. Having watched his truck driver father slog hard to raise eight children, Gururaja is determined to give his family a good life.
“My family was on my mind when I failed the two attempts in clean and jerk, it meant a lot to me,” he said.
Asked whether he would still be interested in giving wrestling a shot, Gururaja broke into a laughter.
“I still enjoy wrestling, I still love the sport a lot. I will prepare for the Olympics, I have got a lot of support from the national federation and everyone who has been part of my journey. All my coaches have shaped me,” he said.