Five gold, two silver and two bronze -- the Indian weightlifting contingent returned with a rich medal haul. But the medal tally does not tell the whole story. It does not tell the story of how the contingent was left without a physio during the entirety of their campaign, it does not tell the story of how Mirabai Chanu overcame her disappointment of having missed out on an Olympic medal in Rio and it does not tell the story of how the sport clawed its way out from the dark shadows of doping.
And behind all these, was one man -- Vijay Sharma, India's national coach. Sportskeeda caught up with Sharma and in an exclusive interaction, the former weightlifter opened up on the challenges faced in Gold Coast, how the Federation and NADA has helped in weeding out doping and much more. Here are excerpts:
Q> 9 out of 16 is a pretty decent haul, how would you rate the performances of the Indian weightlifters in Gold Coast?
A: I'm more or less happy with our medal haul, but performance-wise, we could have been much more successful. We missed a medal in the 105+kg category (Gurdeep Singh), and the silver in the 105kg (Pardeep Singh) could have easily been a gold. Saraswati Rout wasn't fully fit, so it was okay but I was a bit disappointed with the 105+kg and 105kg results.
Q> A day before the competition began, your team was left without a physio or a masseur. How did it affect the overall performance?
A: Not having physios in the village turned out to be a huge problem. In fact, I think we missed out in 105+kg because of that. Gurdeep had a back problem. He was in the silver medal-winning position in snatch. But after that, he complained of some pain in his back. If we had a physio, maybe, things would have been different.
Our physio was staying outside the Village but we had to do with what we had. Sometimes, we used to send our athletes outside to the physio, sometimes we managed whatever we could on our own. We couldn't give any excuses
Q> To what can you attribute the success of the lifters in Gold Coast?
A: The performance of our athletes has been in the making since 2014. Several changes in the training regime were implemented back then and this is the result of those changes. All the kids have been training at the national camp since the last four years, none of the kids took more than 10-12 days of leaves to go home, such has been their dedication.
Apart from that, there were a lot of changes made to the diet plan. Diet has a huge role to play. Previously, we were dependant on whatever diet was provided by the SAI mess. But the thing is every sport requires a separate diet. So, we asked for a separate diet comprising of pork, mutton and nutritional supplements. These changes were absolutely vital.
Q> The level of competition at the Commonwealth Games is comparatively weaker when compared to the Asian Games or the Olympics. Given India's medal tally in Gold Coast, how hopeful are you of the lifters' performance in Jakarta or in Tokyo?
A: Yes, it's true countries like China, Kazakhstan, etc. do not participate in the Commonwealth Games and the competition is weaker. But our primary goal was to increase our gold tally, and we did that. More importantly, we broke our own national records there. So that is a testament to the fact that there has been a marked improvement. We have been constantly working on reaching the top level, and if you see the records, you'll see we are improving every year. It'll take some more time, but I'm sure we will reach there.
The preparations for the Asian Games has already begun. Only Poonam Yadav has taken a leave and gone back home, the rest are in the camp, training.
For the Olympics, a lifter needs to prepare for at least eight years. In Rio, we missed out on one or two medals but come Tokyo, we will be fighting for two medals at least.
Q> For many years, doping was a big problem in weightlifting. What changes have been made to restrict doping in the sport?
Both NADA and the Federation has provided a lot of support in weeding out doping from the sport. Whenever we wanted a dope test NADA responded. On an average, every year 600 dope tests have been conducted since 2014. This helps in instilling a fear in the kids. Secondly, the Federation conducts awareness programmes in every competition. The NADA officials tell the kids about the dos and don'ts. On our part, we conduct sudden room searches in the camp. If we find anything in any room, the lifter is immediately reprimanded and sent back home.
So, now I think, the awareness has gone up and with that, the fear has gone up as well. Being a little more strict in our approach has certainly helped the cause.
Q> What does the future hold for the sport in the country?
Weightlifting is a sport where only people from humble backgrounds come. The rich do not take up this sport, usually, because it is a very strenuous sport. You have to work harder, you have to train a lot and that's why the rich do not want to get into it. But yes, the situation is gradually changing. Nowadays, thanks to the media's coverage, a lot of kids, who live in cities, are taking up the sport. In the junior national championships last year, around 500 kids participated. That is a positive sign for the sport in the country.
The future of the sport in India looks bright and I think, weightlifting will be India's next big sport at the Olympics.
Source : https://www.sportskeeda.com/weight-lifting/from-the-shadows-of-doping-to-the-threshold-of-glory-how-weightlifting-went-from-obscurity-to-being-india-s-next-olympic-medal-hope