BENGALURU: Weight is the buzzword in a corner of the National Institute of Sports in Patiala these days. The national camp for the Asian Weightlifting Championship to be held in China next month is underway. Other than lifting, the campers are also keeping an eye on their own bodyweight. In sports like this and boxing or wrestling, it’s essential to stay within the limits of their respective categories.
National coach Vijay Sharma is one of those monitoring the weight charts of the participants, which are maintained on a regular basis. Either him or the other coaches follow it closely. Going through the list, Sharma’s eyes scan for Jeremy Lalrinnunga. The youngster from Mizoram, who became India’s first-ever gold medallist at the Youth Olympic Games last year, has shifted from 62kg to 67kg.
Still just 16, Jeremy is one of India’s biggest hopes. He has jumped weight categories frequently in the last few years. Sharma knows the importance of handling this period carefully. “Being at a growing age, his bone density, muscle mass and those things will improve. If we try and stop that natural growth, his strength will not improve and chances of injuries will increase. His body is improving and there is no need to stop it,” Sharma says.
After the Youth Olympics, Jeremy made his 67kg debut at the Khelo India Youth Games in January and won silver with a then personal best of 278kg. At the EGAT’s Cup in Thailand, he again clinched silver with 288kg. His Youth Olympic gold had come with an effort of 274kg.
While his improvement is there to see, it takes a lot of attention and planning to keep him going. The coaches work in close contact with dietitians. The objective is to help Jeremy perform to potential in the 67kg category, where he has to stay at least till the 2020 Olympics. “I have been advised diet to maintain my weight. The dietitian has prepared a chart of what are the things I can have and what I should not. Vijay sir and others keep track of these things and monitor closely. If they are not satisfied, they can make changes,” says Jeremy.
His big test will be the Asian Championship, which acts as Tokyo Olympics qualifiers too. At present, his personal best of 288kg will take him nowhere near the best in Asia, but Jeremy will know where he stands and the areas he needs to improve. The final qualification for the Olympics will be based on his performance in the six IWF-designated events (Gold and Silver level only) in an 18-month period, divided in three phases.
Sharma, however, has set long-term targets for Jeremy. “I want to ensure he qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics. If he is able to book his spot, it is going to be great and by that experience, we can even expect a medal in the 2024 Games. It’s a long process. If we can help him qualify at this age, it will be achievement in itself,” the coach says.