GOLD COAST : Stuartpuram has now got its own real-life hero. The place made famous by the cult Chiranjeevi flick Stuartpuram Police Station has V Rahul Ragala to brag about after he clinched India’s fourth gold of the Commonwealth Games here on Saturday.
The 21-year-old lifted a total of 338kg (151kh in snatch and 187 in clean and jerk) in the 85kg category. Stuartpuram, a ‘reformation’ colony of the Yerukulas established by the British in 1913, will now be known for other reasons than just poverty and violent history. Perhaps, Rahul’s medal will help in healing those festered wounds.
A Yerukula himself, Rahul says people have changed. Despite most shunning the path of crime and infamy, the stigma and social prejudices that existed during colonisation still hound them.
“There has been a huge transformation and people are pursuing different professions. A few have joined the police (department as well). This will give them hope,” said Rahul with hope and pride. “I am a graduate and work in South Central Railways.”Like his ilk, Rahul’s life too has been a ceaseless struggle — poverty, personal loss and health issues. Six months ago his mother died. He still has her toe ring tied around his neck in a black thread.
“It was not easy for me to make a comeback. With the ring around my neck, she inspires me,” he elucidated. During his clean and jerk routine, when he had to place the bar on his chest, he tied it around his head. “I remember her and I want her to be (a) part of me all the time,” he said with moist eyes. At 21, he seems more mature for his age — it may be because of poverty or a personal tragedy. But his story doesn’t stop there.
When Rahul was diagnosed with jaundice in 2015, no one gave him a chance to get back what he had lost. From 85kg he dropped to 56kg. “It was awful. It took me more than a year to gain that weight.” A few months ago, Rahul injured his knees.
“My knees are strapped because of the unbearable pain.” He walks with a limp. He came into weightlifting because of his father, who was a former national champion in the 52kg category. He started lifting weights as an eight-year-old. “I used to lift weights out of curiosity (after) watching my father train. First, I started at 56kg in the sub-junior division and when I was 14, I joined the national camp.”
Rahul’s father, Madhu Ragala, ensured he never felt the agony of poverty. He didn’t want him to quit weightlifting. He was also a kabaddi player. “He takes lands on lease and farms and also has a small shop,” said Rahul, who had to shift to Hyderabad Sports School to get good nutrition. “Forget about protein, we were not sure whether we would have enough food for all of us.”
At the Carrara Sports Arena, Rahul was so overwhelmed by the gold that even before the announcement, he stepped onto the podium. The officials had to remind him he was supposed to go to the top step only after the announcement. Perhaps, with many more medals, he will be experienced enough to know that. He is already eyeing the Asian Games but wants some rest before that. “(...) But before that, I will have to rehabilitate.”