Games record, gold for para powerlifter Sudhir who missed Tokyo

Published on Aug 05, 2022 10:27 PM IST
  • Lifts 212kg to beat Nigerian for India’s first gold in powerlifting.
ByRutvick Mehta, Birmingham

Sudhir, a six-time national champion para powerlifter, yearns for the big tournaments, trains to be at his best in them and plans his schedules around it. Understandable also given his sport doesn’t host international meets in India. And therefore, after winning the bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, he trained his guns towards the most prestigious of the lot: the Tokyo Paralympics.

The man from Sonipat was well prepared to participate in a mandatory tournament in Dubai in 2020 to make the qualification cut. Days before his departure, he tested positive for Covid-19 and his Paralympic dreams went up in smoke. As he watched the rest of the Indian contingent in the history-making and popularity-boosting Paralympics last year, Sudhir—a strong medal prospect there according to India’s national para powerlifting coach—was gutted at not being among the headline-makers from the Paralympics.

Now he is, not just alongside the rest of the Indian para contingent at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (CWG) but also among the champions in Birmingham. The 28-year-old Sudhir won gold in the men’s heavyweight powerlifting final at the NEC Hall on Thursday night. It was India’s first para medal at these Games that is hosting para sports simultaneously with a shared medal tally, a rare occurrence in a mega multi-sporting event.

Sudhir, who had polio when he was four, won the category with a Commonwealth Games record 134.5 points, lifting a successful 212kg in his second attempt to edge out Nigeria's Ikechukwu Christian Obichukwu (133.6 points). In para powerlifting where athletes compete in the bench press position, points are calculated on the basis of highest lifts, body weight, rack height and other factors. Sudhir's body weight was 87.30; Obichukwu’s was 74.90.

The CWG gold took Sudhir back to 2020. “For any para athlete, the Paralympics are a dream, something to train for and which can change our lives. I didn’t want to go back to training for some time. I thought there was no point,” he said.

JP Singh, India’s para powerlifting coach, said Sudhir reserved his best when the stakes were high. “So for him to not be there at the Paralympics, it was difficult. He was broken for a while. But we re-motivated him and thankfully because the CWG was only a year away, he was back on track mentally,” Singh said, adding that this was India’s first CWG gold in powerlifting to go with one silver and a couple of bronze.

Born in a family of farmers in Lath, Sudhir picked up powerlifting after finding solace in a gym in his village in Sonipat from his disability. “Bada sukoon milta tha udar (I would find my peace there), and I started to enjoy powerlifting there,” he said.

Sudhir picked up his first national powerlifting gold in 2016, and got noticed by Singh the following year. In 2018, he won silver in the World Cup apart from the Asiad bronze. He came into the CWG winning a bronze in the Asia Oceania Open Championship a month before.

Bhavinaben confirms medal

Tokyo Paralympics silver medallist paddler Bhavinaben Patel secured the country’s second para medal on Friday, entering the singles final breezing past England's Sue Bailey 11-6, 11-6, 11-6. The Indian will take on Nigerian Ifechukwude Christiana Ikpeoyi for gold. Patel, who was the first Indian medallist in Tokyo last year, had become only the second Indian woman to win a silver medal in Paralympics.

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