Ajay Singh is a few hours away from taking to the weightlifting platform at the Commonwealth Games, but his family back in Rajasthan has already started preparing to organise a grand reception when he returns home from Birmingham. They are confident the 25-year-old will fly back with a medal.
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“My father told me we will celebrate when I return with a medal. I have been lifting for 12 years now. I have been training seriously and avoiding using the smartphone. It is a distraction. I am really motivated to do well. I have to win the medal,” Ajay, who is scheduled to compete against strong lifters such as Australia’s Kyle Bruce [Personal Best – 331kg (149+182)] and Nicolas Vachon [PB – 327kg (143+184)] of Canada in the men’s 81kg final on Monday, tells Sportstar.
I was into athletics. After that I was inducted into the Army Sports Institute in Pune in 2010. There, assessing my body structure and movement patterns, they suggested I take up weightlifting.
— says Ajay who was a sprinter initially
Ajay holds the National Record, having recorded a combined lift of 338kg (148+190) in Apia, Samoa, in 2019. His best snatch effort of 148kg, however, had first come in 2018 in Ashgabat. Needless to say, he is a contender for the gold medal in his weight class.
Interestingly, Ajay started his sporting journey as a sprinter, thanks to his uncle who was in the Army. He didn’t even know then that a sport called weightlifting existed. “I was into athletics. After that I was inducted into the Army Sports Institute in Pune in 2010. There, assessing my body structure and movement patterns, they suggested I take up weightlifting. It took me around two to three years to understand the techniques with the help of Subedar Rajender sahab.”
In 2015, Ajay got his first podium when he made his nationals debut in Yamunanagar. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. He has gone on to claim the Commonwealth Senior Championship gold in 2019 and 2021, and trains with Haryana’s Vijay Rohilla.
Ajay’s rise wouldn’t have been possible without his family’s support. “My elder brother, who is in the Army, sister and parents have always backed me,” he says.
“Sir, padhai likhai toh hoti nahi thhi. Toh woh log karein bhi toh kya karein?” Ajay jokes. He says since he was never good in academics, his parents had no option but to let him follow his heart.
Ajay had a narrow escape at the National Weightlifting Championships at the KIIT University campus in Bhubaneswar in March 2022, where he edged Deepak Lather – the NR holder in snatch – by only 1kg to take gold. He insists he gave only his 80 per cent in that competition. “It wasn’t my maximum. I was actually not in great form and it is difficult to come in good shape in such a short span of time. That’s why I took it a bit slow and have been training solely for CWG,” says Ajay.
During off-seasons, Ajay goes for a rigorous physical training for an hour every morning after which there is another session from 10am to 1pm. He says, “It’s basically a power training session for improving techniques.” In the evening, Ajay goes for technical training from 4pm to 7pm.
Ajay says his confidence is his strongest ally. “In December, at a competition, I went up against a few lifters who were doing a lot of ‘oohs and aahs’ before their lifts. Main mann hi mann socha, beta tu jo karna hai karle, jeetunga toh main hi (I thought to myself, ‘make as many noises as you want, there will be one winner and it will be me’).”
Ajay hit the lowest point of his career when he sustained a shoulder lateral muscle and bicep tear in Samoa. “I was struggling. I was afraid how the injury might affect me in the long term. I was worried that my training and potential might all go to waste. However, via GoSports (Foundation), I received medical attention from Dr. Ajit Mahapari in Pune and underwent rehabilitation for two to three months. Within six months, my performance returned. I have been with another company called Sportsapp also for six years now. They helped me out with sponsorships when I needed them the most.”
Ajay enjoys watching South Indian action flicks in his spare time, especially those starring Telugu superstar Ravi Teja. Come Monday, he will be eager to punch his way through the competition, much like his favourite actor.