At first glance, K Ravi Kumar looks like any average 22-year-old, dressed in a loose t-shirt and track pants, appearing not to have a care in the world. But when you shake hands with the diminutive young man, who insists on calling you sir, his grip will make you think again.
From Berhampur, Orissa, Ravi Kumar is a weightlifting trainer with the Army Sports Institute, Pune, and is a hot prospect for gold at the Games.
At the recent selection trials, Ravi broke his own national record 5 times in the 69 kg category, making his selection a surety, and taking a definite step towards reaching the peak performance levels.
For Ravi, and others with Games hopes, Patiala has been home for two years. As a member of the weightlifting core group, he is a permanent camper. This means giving up on family, friends and concentrating on the sport.
The day starts early. The entire squad is out on the field at 7am, for calisthenics. For about an hour, they jog, run, stretch and warm their bodies up for the day of training ahead. From the ground, its time for a shower, and head for breakfast, and then the gym.
The morning gym session for the lifter is the power session. “The session lasts for about two hours, after which we cool down and then get some time to rest. All of us have the same schedule. Harnam Singh oversees the training of the entire team, but we have individual coaches who work more closely with us.”
Then comes lunch, rest, and a return to the gym. This time its classical training. They work on the snatch and the clean and jerk as they would in competition. “We are in the gym till about 6.30 pm, but many of us work extra after the session.” Thursdays and Sundays are rest days. But even on these days, the morning session is a must, and being athletes, much of the rest day is spent playing other sports, like volleyball, cricket and football. “Sunday is the only day we get off, so some of us head to town and watch a movie or go to the shops.”
Ravi says the lifters are happy being a part of the camp and that the team becomes like family over time. “Over the years the training facilities have gotten much better.”
When asked about the fine the Federation still has to pay in order to enter the Games, Ravi says, “We are all very hopeful that the fine is paid. We will all win medals at the Games if we are fit. All we want to do is turn up in front of the home crowd, win India 15 medals, and get rid of the hovering doping cloud. We want to do this for ourselves, and for the nation.”
Ravi lifts hundreds of kilos in competition, yet the weight of expectations, and of the doping chatter is a heavier burden to carry. For now though, Ravi seems to be managing just fine.