VISAKHAPATNAM: She slowly walks onto the stage, pauses for about 10 seconds, staring at the 100-odd present at the Railways Indoor Sports Enclave here, and successfully lifts 84 kg (snatch). After a while, she repeats the same routine to lift 104kg in clean and jerk. With a total of 188kg on Saturday, Railways’ Matsa Santoshi secured her third straight gold at the senior nationals. The first two had come in the 53kg category, while the latest is in the 55kg, after the International Weightlifting Federation had rejigged all the categories last year.
Not long ago, the 24-year-old used to practise in sand and mud, before a Commonwealth Games silver in 2014 changed things for good. She says she was awarded `45 lakh by the central government to construct a gym in her village, Kondavelagada, which is located about 10 km from Vizianagaram. “There were a few good weightlifters in my village who had won medals at national and international level. But they did not have the facilities the current lot from the village has,” she told this daily.
The gym’s inauguration in January 2016 has also increased the number of youngsters taking up weightlifting in the village. “After the gym opened, many have become aware of the sport. Right now, there are about 30 youngsters who train there regularly. When I first started, I did not even know that one could win medals lifting weights,” Santoshi, who won gold and silver at Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in 2015 and 2017 respectively, said on Sunday.
Financial troubles notwithstanding, her family always had her back. Things have turned out to be even better ever since she married fellow weightlifter Ramana Korada from the same village last year.
Interestingly, both of them had finished at the top of the podium during the last nationals, with Ramana grabbing a gold in the 56 kg category. “During my first youth nationals, my family did not even have money to book tickets. My sister sold her earrings to book them. Though we were financially weak, my family always supported me. And after getting married, the support system has become even better. I’m lucky to have a husband who supports me,” Santoshi said. Ramana could not turn up for this year’s nationals since he is ailing from jaundice.
Santoshi has Olympic berth on her mind. She is expecting a call for the national camp. “My target is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. For that, I am aiming to perform well at the Asian Championships in April. There is not just a single area I am looking to improve upon.”