VISAKHAPATNAM: There are innumerable ways youth can be introduced to a sport. From catching it live on TV to watching others make their way to the top, inspiration can be drawn from anywhere. West Bengal’s 18-year-old Achinta Sheuli does not fall in this realm, for the way the 73kg senior national weightlifting champion was introduced to the sport seems out of the ordinary.
“I loved to fly kites when I was a kid. One day, while trying to retrieve one, I landed near a gym, and was immediately hooked after seeing some weightlifters. And incidentally, my brother used to go to the same gym,” the teenager, who won his maiden senior title on Monday, told this newspaper.
With a combined effort of 300 kg (135 in snatch + 165 in clean and jerk), Sheuli overcame much experienced lifters easily. The youngster had grabbed a silver on his first attempt last year (in the erstwhile 69 kg category). He also holds a youth national record with a clean and jerk lift of 158 kg.
Sheuli has been a national camp regular for about two years. However, his career could have been nipped in the bud just when he was introduced to the sport. His father, who was the sole breadwinner in the family, died of stroke six years ago, about the same time he had first walked into the gym. “My father was a rickshaw puller. One day he suffered a stroke and was gone. My mother had to do some tailoring work to make ends meet. My elder brother and I also joined, as all three of us needed to work to manage three meals a day. Obviously, I could not get the protein-rich diet required to be a weightlifter, but I used to train anyway,” he recalled.
Those days are behind Sheuli, as his fledgling career is being guided well at the national camp in Patiala. “I get a stipend of `10,000 per month since I am a part of Khelo India camp as well. And my brother has also started earning, though it is not as much. I also get some pocket money when I travel for foreign tournaments. I used to manage with only pocket money before the stipend came into effect a few months ago,” he revealed.
Under the watchful eyes of national coach Vijay Sharma, Sheuli crossed a hurdle on Monday. He is also in line for a 2020 Olympic berth, and Sharma rates him highly for the future. “Together with Jeremy Lalrinnunga and a few more, he is someone to watch out for in the future,” Sharma said.
The coach has been credited with overhauling the structure, and as a result helping Indians claim more medals at the international stage. Asked what makes training under Sharma so special, Sheuli said: “He fills all of us with josh (passion). He knows what exactly he wants from us. Our job is to just eat, practice and sleep.”
While things are slowly falling in line for him, there is still a long way to go. He has also received quite a few government job offers, but he is yet to take a call. “I have all the technical support I need. Now, it is my responsibility to apply whatever I have been taught.”