When the Indian contingent landed at Gold Coast for the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games with an aim to improve the medal tally from the previous edition of the games, few would have expected the weightlifters to give such an early showering of medals for the country. Boxing, Shooting and Badminton were the events which were expected to win the majority of the medals for India. The weightlifters, however, have changed the old script and became the highlight of this edition of the Games so far. After two golds from the two ‘Chanus’, Deepak Lather, who turned 18 just last month, became the second male weightlifter and the fourth from his country to bag a medal. Making his debut at the quadrennial event memorable, Lather lifted a remarkable 295 kg (136 kg in snatch and 159 kg in clean and jerk) to take the bronze medal. let’s take a look at his incredible journey as we discuss about his heroics today.
Hailing from Haryana, Lather became the youngest Indian ever to set a national record when he lifted 267 kg to win the National Championships, 2015, when he was just 15. The son of a wheat farmer, Lather used to help his father in the field. But his father Bijender Lather had even greater hopes for his son. He always wanted him to become a wrestler as he was quite strong since his early days. Even at a young age, he was able to carry sacks of wheat almost double his weight. Opportunity came knocking as the Army Sports Institute conducted trials in his district which didn’t even have a gym. But weightlifting wasn’t his first choice. After being selected for training at the ASI, Pune, he tried his hand at diving, but failed terribly, only to be reassigned to weightlifting. Success came at every step as he made incredible progress in the sport.
In an interview earlier this year, chief national coach Vijay Sharma said, “He is undoubtedly going to be a star of global weightlifting. There’s little doubt that he can win a medal at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.” Sharma’s words came true as today the teenager stands tall among his countrymen. But the medal didn’t come easy.
In snatch, Lather lifted 132 kg in his first attempt and bettered it in his second attempt by lifting 136 kg. He finished joint second in snatch with gold-medallist Gareth Evans from Wales, as he failed to lift 138 kg in his final attempt. Silver medallist Indika Mudiyanselage topped snatch by lifting a weight of 137 kg. Things now moved to Clean and Jerk. Lather continued his good run by lifting 155 kg in his first attempt and 159 kg in his second attempt. At this stage, Lather’s total stood at 295, which was beaten by Indika’s 297 who lifted 160 in his first attempt. The Sri Lankan, however, failed to better this score in his next two attempts. Lather then arrived for his third attempt where he failed at lifting 162 kg and hence lost his shot at gold. The Welsh giant turned the tables in his favor as he topped the charts after lifting 160 kg and 163 kg in his first two attempts but couldn’t lift 165 kg in his last attempt. His final tally was at 299 kg.
Just when everyone thought the final results were clear, the big Samoan Vaipava Ioane brought a twist in the tale for the Welsh and the Indians. After lifting 125kg in snatch, the Samoan aimed at 170 kg in his first attempt of clean and jerk and emerged successful. As he walked out for his last two attempts to try and lift 174 kg, TV cameras showed the Welsh nervously praying in his room. Ioane and his coaches were clear – either gold or nothing. He tried once but failed. To buy him some time, his coach asked for the floor to be swept. The Samoan entered again, but alas, it wasn’t his day as he failed and came fourth. Evans was seen jumping around, whereas Lather had a wry smile on his face. He knew he had narrowly missed gold.