CHENNAI: Around five years ago, Sharad Garud, who was then a pump operator with gram panchayat's water supply section in Vadgaon Maval town of Pune district, witnessed his then 13-year-old daughter, Harshada, effortlessly dragging a 50kg rice sack.
Sharad, who had won weightlifting silver at state school games before quitting the sport due to financial constraints, was convinced at that moment that his daughter is born to be a lifter.
Harshada proved him right on Monday as she became the first-ever lifter from the country to win gold at the IWF Junior World Championships in Heraklion, Greece. She became a world champion in 45kg with a total effort of 153kg (70kg+83kg), opening India's account on the inaugural day of the competition.
The 70kg effort in snatch earned Harshada a top finish while she was second-best in the clean and jerk section, behind Turkey's Bektas Cansu (85kg), who won silver with an overall effort of 150kg (65kg+85 kg).
Medals are awarded separately for snatch, clean and jerk, and total lift in continental and World Championships. However, only one medal is awarded for the overall lift in the Olympics.
"Her body structure is different and that fateful day I was convinced that she will make it big in weightlifting," Sharad told this daily.
He soon enrolled Harshada in Dube's Gurukul, where she made rapid strides under the watchful eyes of coach Biharilal Dube.
"Harshada's gold at the 2020 Khelo India Youth Games earned her a place in the national camp at NIS Patiala, which helped her immensely in improving her performance. The most important thing was diet she started getting there," coach Dube said.
Harshada's father might have been convinced but the coach wanted to test her skills before choosing a sport for her.
"We used to train track and field athletes here as well. So I observed Harshada for some time before deciding that she could pursue weightlifting. Today I am a proud coach as she did what many other elite lifters from the country couldn't do," added Dube.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, Mirabai Chanu, had won bronze in the 2013 edition while Achinta Sheuli had clinched silver last year in the event.
"It's a big feat as no other Indian lifter has managed to do that in the past. We hope for a good show by our lifters in the event but again it all depends on how you perform on your day. Even Anjali Patel missed a podium finish by just a whisker today (Monday)," said Sahdev Yadav, president of the Indian Weightlifting Federation. Anjali finished fifth overall with a total effort of 148kg (67kg+81kg).
"For the first time, she completed all her attempts (3 in snatch and 3 in clean and jerk) which means she has improved a lot in the last two years. I hope she continues to improve and win more medals for the country," signed off the father.
An eight-member Indian team comprising six women and two men is competing at the event.