Achievements apart, weightlifting's credibility has suffered

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

THE Indian weightlifters literally pulled their weight. However, they were not able to project a very clean image because of the positive drug test returned by Krishnan Madasamy in the 17th Commonwealth Games.

India's Sanamacha Chanu came up with a class act in the 53kg category.-AP

To add to the woes, Sateesha Rai was also declared to have tested positive for stimulants, which meant that he would be stripped of his medals - two golds and a bronze.

There was not much of a dent to the overall collection of the Indian team, when the two golds, three silvers and a bronze won by Madasamy and Rai were taken back, but there was a severe dent on the credibility of the sport itself.

There has to be some investigation as to how the lifters, in the training camp for more than six months prior to the Games, and tested repeatedly by the Indian doctors, returned positive tests only at the Games.

Both the lifters pleaded that they were innocent, but the traces in their urine samples stated otherwise. Since the Games had concluded by the time Rai's positive test was done, India still remained at the third spot ahead of Canada, in the overall medals tally.

Kunjarani Devi proved her worth in the 48 kg class.-AP

A bigger blow had been served earlier when the much-medalled Kunjarani Devi failed the test and served a six-month ban after the Asian championship last year.

The 34-year-old Kunjarani, who has 21 world championship medals to her credit, proved her worth once again by claiming all the three gold medals in the 48 kg category. She had lifts of 75 kg in snatch, 105 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 180.

Kunjarani could not get a chance to prove her worth in the Sydney Olympics when women's weightlifting was introduced, but she got her chance in the Commonwealth Games. She has also said that she owed everything to the Belarussian coach Leonid Taranenko, and hardly gained anything from the Indian coaches. A bitter statement indeed.

Kunjarani was so good that even when she was not lifting her best she beat Karine Turcotte of Canada, 10 years younger than her, by a 10 kg margin.

The 20-year-old Shailaja Pujari was the third Indian to win all the three golds - in the 75 kg event.-AP

Obviously, one of the all-time great lifters, Kunjarani was preserving her best for the Asian Games, as weightlifting is a tough sport, and recovery from one championship to another is a hard task.

Sanamacha Chanu, the Asian champion, asserted her ability in the 53 kg category, sweeping all the three gold medals. The 23-year-old had lifts of 82.5 kg and 100 kg.

Sanamacha, who had finished sixth in the Sydney Olympics, won by a 7.5 kg margin against the 31-year-old Natasha Barker of Australia, lifting just about enough to beat a six-member field. There was no record to beat, as women's weightlifting was making its debut at the Commonwealth Games.

Shailaja Pujari was the third Indian woman to win all three gold medals, in the 75 kg category. The 20-year-old had lifts of 97.5 kg and 125 kg.

Pratima Kumari won two golds in the 63 kg section, but had to settle for silver in snatch.-AP

She was so authoritative that she won the gold with a 20-kg margin over the 19-year-old Deborah Lovely of Australia. She was too good in clean and jerk with a lift of 125 kg, which she accomplished in her second attempt. She did fail at 102.5 in snatch and 132.5 in clean and jerk, but the gold had been assured by then.

Though the three won three gold medals each, the government cash awards would only be the enhanced Rs. 20 lakhs for the overall medal, as has been the case in the past.

Pratima Kumari won two gold medals in the 63 kg section, and had to settle for the silver in snatch. The 26-year-old lifted 205 kg in all, including 117.5 kg in clean and jerk. Prasmita Mangaraj took two silvers and a bronze in the same event, with lifts of 85 kg and 110 kg. The duo pushed Pascale Dorcelus of Canada to the bronze. The Canadian took the snatch gold from the grasp of Pratima on the basis of her lesser body weight after the two tied at 87.5 kg.

Pratima will be on par with Kunjarani, Sanamacha and Shailaja in getting Rs. 20 lakhs from the Indian government for the overall gold.

Neelam Laxmi could not bargain for anything more than three silver medals in the 69 kg category, with lifts of 95 and 110 kg. Sunaina was the other Indian woman to win medals, and collected three bronzes in the 58 kg section, with lifts of 85 and 107.5 kg.

Malaysia's Amirul Hamizal Ibrahim is ecstatic after creating a new Games record in the men's 56 kg category.-AP

Laxmi, returning to the competition after two years when she took a break following child birth, was beaten comprehensively by the outstanding performance of the 20-year-old Madeleine Yamechi of Cameroon. Yamechi lifted 25 kg more than Laxmi to take all the three gold medals.

There was not much competition in terms of numbers in the women's 58 kg category, but among the three who competed and completed their lifts successfully, Sunaina took the bronze with lifts of 85 and 107.5 kg. Maryse Turcotte of Canada took the gold ahead of Michaela Breeze of Wales overall, but could not deny the latter the snatch gold on bodyweight.

In the men's section, Sateesha Rai delivered as expected in the 77 kg class. The 31-year-old bank officer won gold in clean and jerk with a lift of 175 kg and the overall gold at 317.5 kg. He settled for the bronze in snatch with a lift of 142.5 kg. Sateesha Rai had won a gold in the last edition, and was obviously happy to improve on his performance, though disappointed at losing his hold on snatch.

Rai's positive test would mean that one of the all-time great lifters, Dave Morgan of Wales would get two gold medals, apart from his snatch silver.

The 37-year-old Morgan had become the first man in the history of Commonwealth Games to win medals in six editions, which he did from 1982 in Brisbane.

India's Palwinder Singh Cheema waves to the crowd after taking the wrestling gold in the 120 kg category.-AP

"I would like to think that one of the gold medals has my name on it," Morgan had said before the Games.

As destiny would have it, two gold medals would have his name on them.

"I can't control other people's performances. So I only focus on my own," said Morgan, who has won nine golds and three silver medals in the Commonwealth Games.

Thandava Muthu and Vickey Batta shared three silver and two bronze medals between them in the 56 kg section. They were beaten by Amirul Hamizal Ibrahim of Malaysia to the gold rather comfortably.

The 21-year old Malaysian, took the three golds with 115 in snatch, and 145 kg in clean and jerk for a total lift of 260 kg, beating the Games record of 245 kg, effortlessly. Muthu had lifts of 112.5 and 132.5 for a total of 245 kg, while Batta had lifts of 107.5 and 135.

Chitradurga Kumar was the other Indian to win a medal, as he took a bronze in the 69 kg category. Tientcheu Dabaya of Cameroon took the gold ahead of Muhammad Irfan of Pakistan on lesser bodyweight after the two tied at 310 kg, lifting similar weights of 140 in snatch and 170 clean and jerk.

India's Krishan Kumar tries to pin down Canada's Mikheil Japaridze in the 55 kg final. Krishan Kumar won the gold.-AP

"These lifts were not my personal best. I did what I came here to do, which was to get the medals," Dabaya said.

"Commonwealth Games is a major event. I am the first lifter from Pakistan to win a medal in weightlifting in 30 years. This makes me very proud. I hope to win gold at the next Games," said Irfan.

Govinda Vadivelu had his career-best lift of 162.g kg in clean and jerk, but he went without a medal, and finished sixth overall. Chitradurga Kumar finished seventh overall, but had the snatch bronze, which will not fetch him any money from the government!

Overall, the lifters had done well to grab 30 medals, and that was a considerable percentage of the 72 medals that India won. The tally would reduce to 27 from weightlifting, and 69 overall once the officials adjust the tables on Rai's positive test.

The wrestlers also played their part with distinction. The seven-member squad collected six medals, including three golds.

Palwinder Singh Cheema (120 kg), Krishan Kumar (55 kg) and Ramesh Kumar (66 kg) clinched the gold, showing considerable poise and energy in their fights, in a vibrant atmosphere.

Anuj Kumar and Shokinder Tomar had to settle for the silver in the 84 kg and 60 kg sections. The latter was up against the world champion Guivi Sissaouri of Canada, but gave a good account of himself before going down 1-2 in extra-time in the final.

Ramesh Kumar of India throws Canada's Neal Ewers in the 66 kg event. Ramesh won the gold, the third for India in wrestling.-AP

Anil Kumar Mann had to be content with the bronze, in the 96 kg section and overwhelmed Muhammad Bashir Bhola of Pakistan 6-2 to take the honour.

The five Indian gymnasts - Vikas Pandey, Abhinav Dixit, Mayank Srivastava, Mohit Yadav and Rohit Yadav got a taste of international competition but did their part pretty well. The Indian team finished sixth among 10 countries with 151.600 points in the team all-round event.

In the individual all-round event, Vikas Pandey was 11th with 50.300 points, while the gold went to Kanukai Jackson of England with 55.025 points. Mayank Srivastava was 14th with 49.000 points in a field of 24 gymnasts.

The nine judokas managed to collect a silver and a bronze medal through Akram Shah in the 60 kg section and Bhupinder Singh in the 66 kg category respectively.

Overall, the combined effort of the Indian contingent was heartening indeed. If efforts are continued in the same fashion, there is no reason why India cannot move up the table further, and threaten Australia and England for the top honour in future.