There was an added sizzle to the batch of mangode (a type of moong pakoda), which Mahadev Sargar serves at his tea stall at Sanjay Nagar in Sangli on Sunday morning, though the large frying pan only catches his distracted attention. Her daughter Kajol Sargar won the first gold medal at the Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula, and the street cook’s patrons were the lucky ones in the Maharashtra city to hear first-hand accounts of the girl’s exploits in 40 kg of his proud father, to accompany their sweet tea.
Elsewhere on the outskirts of Chennai in Thiruvallur, V Lokanathan, a carpenter by profession but a tragic weightlifter at heart, felt the start of his dream come true, when his son L Dhanush, won gold in the event 49 kg male after inheriting his passion. Dhanush narrowly missed the youth record by one kg, but that only spurred father Lokanathan to aim higher for his son.
Thanks to their podiums, the two teenagers not only lifted barbells three times their body weight, but also lifted the spirits of their families, hoping to lift them from their meager financial means.
“My father’s dream is to see me win an Olympic medal one day. He left the sport due to our family’s financial situation, but he still kept newspaper clippings. When he took me to trainer R Chandra sir he told him to make me a weight lifter. He told me he would work overtime to save money so I didn’t have to worry about food. He wanted to come with me here regardless of the expense and that’s his gold medal,” says Dhanush, who started weightlifting at the insistence of his father, a former trainee of two-time Olympian R Chandra.
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Meanwhile, Mahadev Sargar kept a close eye on his phone while serving customers at the 10ft by 10ft tea stall, even as 17-year-old Kajol won a medal with a combined total of 113kg.
“Hum toh roz chai pakoda hi bechte hain aur yahi karenge, Hamari beti toh bada bada weight uthaati hai aur hamein khushi hoti hai (I only sell tea and pakodas at my tea stall and will continue to do so. My daughter lifts weights and he gives us joy.) I have told all the morning customers about my daughter’s achievement and getting their applause for my daughter is my biggest tip,” an emotional Mahadev Sargar said. to the Indian Express speaking of Sangli.
With his father always listening to sports commentary on the radio or on his phone while working at the teahouse, Kajol’s older brother Sanket would first enroll in the Digvijay Weightlifting Academy followed by Kajol in 2019. The youngster would win the district title in the junior category in 2020. in addition to winning medals at some local events. But with the brother-sister duo practicing weightlifting, it meant the family struggled financially.
“My dad always wanted us to play a sport and when he heard about the weightlifting academy he enrolled my older brother. Later I also joined. At that time my dad was managing the lands 2 acre farm in our village while me and my mum ran the tea stall.Sometimes i would go straight to training from the tea stall but i knew that if my dad could support my dream then i could also support him in his work,” says Kajol.
While Sanket became national champion at 55Kg last year and will be on the Indian team for the Birmingham CWG Games, Kajol will be cheering on her brother. Coach Mayur Sinhasane also thinks that this gold medal will boost Kajol. “The main thing is to support the finances of training and food. With this medal and also a place in the national camp, she will only get better. Participating in more and more competitions will be the key and hopefully she can land a spot in the Indian squad for the Asian Youth Championships,” the coach said.
Dhanush had won the gold medal at the national youth championships in Orissa last year and had a total lift of 184 kg. Weightlifter Tamil Nadhu hauled a total of 190kg on Sunday with the best lift of 88kg in snatch and 102kg in clean and jerk, missing the national youth record of 191kg by one kg. Coach Chandra, who became India’s youngest Olympian weightlifter when he represented India at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, believes Dhanush may soon break the national record.
“At the age of 16, I lifted a total of 160 kg at the junior level. With Dhanush, I didn’t have to try too hard initially because his dad had him practice some of the basics at their house. Every time I called Dhanush, his father would listen eagerly and take notes to tell him later. Lifting a total of 190kg at this age is a good mark and he can definitely improve from here,” Chandra says.