The Indian contingent has already gone past their best ever medals tally at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, winning three silver and the first-ever gold medal courtesy Jeremy Lalrinnunga, the weightlifting sensation from Mizoram, in the 62 kg category.
Posting successful attempts of 124 kg in the snatch and 150 kg in the clean and jerk, 15-year-old Jeremy finished with a combined tally of 274 kg.
There is little doubt Jeremy is on his way to future Olympic glory.
“Jeremy is the best youth weightlifter I have seen. Seeing his potential, we have been training him along with the seniors at the Patiala camp for the last three years,” said Dronacharaya Award winner and India weightlifting head coach Vijay Sharma, who has also trained the likes of Commonwealth Games gold medalist Mirabai Chanu, in a conversation with The Bridge.
For India’s latest and only Youth Olympic Games gold medal sensation, the journey began in Aizwal, Mizoram, at the tender age of six and weightlifting was not his first sport. It was boxing thanks to his father—a national level boxer.
“My father, Lalmaithuava, was a national level boxer. When he used to train at the gym, I used to accompany him. I have learned the principles of sports from him. One day I heard that an ex-player was training kids in weightlifting near my house. I thought I would try my hand at this strength sport instead of boxing,” Jeremy told The Bridge.
Thanks to Malsawma Khiangte, an Aizawl-based coach, who has produced some of India’s best weightlifting talent from his academy, Jeremy made a transition to the sport in 2011.
Khiangte taught his new ward the ropes of weightlifting using water pipes and saw real talent in the making. He believes that Jeremy has an “exceptionally” strong back and shoulders for a boy of his age, and even predicted days before the Youth Olympics that he would win either a gold or silver.
For Jeremy, however, the sport was all fun and games until his father took him to the Army Sports Institute in Pune the following year for trials.
To the uninitiated, the ASI is one of India’s premier hunting ground for sporting talent from a pool of those serving in the Army and other young Indian athletes selected under the Mission Olympics Programme. The institute imparts training in seven distinct sporting disciplines—archery, athletics, boxing, diving, wrestling fencing and weightlifting.
In his first competition at the Youth National Weightlifting Championships, he broke the national record in the 50 kg category lifting a combined 198 kg. Following his success, Coach Vijay Sharma encouraged him to make the step up from 50 to 56 kg, and in the following Youth World Weightlifting Championships in Malaysia, he won the silver medal lifting a fantastic 234 kg (snatch+clean and jerk).
He has already won the gold the Commonwealth Youth Weightlifting Championships, among a host of other medals, and recently scoring his personal best of 273 kg in August after making the step up from 56 kg to 62 kg category. Just three months prior, his personal best was 250 kg. This is a remarkable 23 kg jump in lifting prowess.
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Offering some context to these numbers, India’s silver medalist in the 56 kg category during this year’s Commonwealth Games Gururaja Poojary lifted a combined 249 kg. Two weeks later Jeremy finished with 250 kg in the Asian Youth and Junior Championships.
Jeremy’s earlier personal best of 273 kg in the 62 kg category would have helped him finish 11th in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which was a position acquired by India’s representative, Sathish Sivalingam.
With the 2020, 2024 and 2028 Olympics on his horizon, there is little doubt that 15-year-old Jeremy Lalrinnunga, whose body is still maturing, can very well bring the gold home to India, provided he stays clear of injuries and controversy. His coaches at the ASI and NIS Patiala will have to guide him through this process.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)