GOLD COAST/UDUPI: Smile was glued to his face. At 156cm, it is easy to lose him in the crowd. His story is similar to many who take Olympic sports. Gururaja Poojari comes from a nondescript village Vandse in Udupi district. His father is a truck driver. He has five brothers. He lived in poverty and now he expects a better life.Gururaja first tried his hand in wrestling, before being pushed into weightlifting by a watchful coach -- Rajendra Prasad in SDM College, Ujire.
On Thursday, when the showers battered the roof of the Carrara sports complex, he won silver in the 56kg weight category.Had somebody told the 25-year-old he would win a medal at the Commonwealth Games when he joined SDM College, he would have called him crazy.
“I wanted to be a wrestler after watching Sushil Kumar’s bronze in 2008 Olympics,” he says with a smile. Even before the final lift he was not sure after no-lifts in the earlier two attempts in clean and jerk.
Like life, even the medal was not on a platter. India coach reminded him of his destiny. “My coach reminded me how much this medal means to me and I have to lift it,” he says. His total of 249kg took him to silver. “I could have done better.”
For a man who lifted 249kg, the weight of the medal around his neck seemed heavy. He took it off and placed it in his hand while trying to catch a glimpse of Mirabai Chanu during her lift. “I have not eaten well for days now,” he says.
Gururaja had to endure pain. “Right shoulder to feet, everything is paining but our physio was not allowed inside. I had to take instructions from him from the other room.”Life is like that and he has taken this in his stride.
I used to invest my prize money in training: Gururaja
Once he took up weightlifting, Gururaj Poojari never looked back. He bagged a silver in the 56kg event at the Commonwealth Games on Thursday.“I used to stay back in college so that I never missed classes. My family would support me financially in whatever way they could,” he says. “Then Vikas Thakur won a medal at the last Commonwealth Games and I was inspired. Even I wanted to win a medal.”
It was not easy for him to sustain his training. “Before getting into the National team, whatever little I used to get through prize money I used to invest in my training,” he says. “Once I got Rs 25,000 in a university event I took care of my diet and equipment.” His father was barely managing to support a family of eight. Gururaja is fifth among six brothers.
At 156cm, it was not easy for Gururaja to land a job. “I could not find a job with the Indian Army because of my height and took up a job with the Indian Air Force where height relaxation was 152cm. I badly needed the job.”
Gururaja, son of Mahabala Poojari, a truck driver, and Paddu Poojari, showed his interest in sports when studying in the Government higher primary school at Vandse in Kundapur taluk. The then physical education teacher had encouraged him. His talent came into the open when studying in Mookambika High School, Kollur.
The physical education teacher of the school, Sukesh Shetty, extended a lot of encouragement to him. Gururaj aalso got support in wrestling there. Later, he pursued graduation in SDM College Ujire where Rajendra Prasad trained him in weightlifting.
In 2017, Gururaja had claimed a Commonwealth Championship bronze in Australia. Gururaja, who began weightlifting in 2010, had won gold in the Commonwealth senior weightlifting championship, lifting a personal best of 249 kg (108+141) in Penang in 2016. Earlier that year, the 25-year-old had won gold at the South Asian Games. He had started out as a wrestler before switching to power lifting and then weightlifting.