On the right track

Ragala Venkata Rahulwith his haul of medals from recent international competitions. He is flanked by coach S. A. Singh (right) and his deputy C. Manikyalu.-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM Ragala Venkata Rahulwith his haul of medals from recent international competitions. He is flanked by coach S. A. Singh (right) and his deputy C. Manikyalu.

A very keen learner, Ragala Venkata Rahul trains intensely and has the desire to keep improving. V. V. Subrahmanyam on the young weightlifter, who has the potential to make it big.

Weightlifter Ragala Venkata Rahul, who won the gold medal in the 77 kg category with a combined lift of 310 kg at the Asian Youth Games in Nanjing, China, recently is dreaming big. Only in April, he had won all three gold medals at the Asian Youth Championships, with 132 kg in snatch and 157 kg in clean and jerk for a total lift of 289 kg. He had also won two medals in the IWF Youth Boys World Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, earlier in the year.

Rahul, 17, is thrilled with his gold medal winning performance in China. “These are the kind of results that should make you think big. I am grateful to my coaches and to my school management for all the support they have given me,” says the second year Intermediate student.

Hailing from the land of Karnam Malleswari, who won the women’s weightlifting bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the youngster is being groomed by Surmise Achou Singh of Manipur, who has made the Sports School almost his second home for close to 15 years now. “This boy has the potential to win a medal at the highest level. Definitely, my target is to see him on the podium in the 2016 Olympics,” says the 67-year-old coach.

Interestingly, Rahul’s father, Ragala Madhu, had dreamt of representing India in weightlifting, but without success. “I was watching my father (Ragala Madhu) train and win medals at the university level. But subsequently, he had to stop competing for want of support,” Rahul recalled.

With the Asian Games scheduled next year, Rahul, who is now part of the long-term training programme with the other Indian weightlifters in Patiala, is confident of putting up improved performances in the run-up to that mega event. In a way, the young weightlifter is lucky to have the backing of the Andhra Pradesh Weightlifting Association secretary, Badeti Venkaramaiah, who has been like a mentor to Rahul, giving him the right guidance and exposure to big events.

Rahul is aware that the journey ahead is not only demanding, but also requires a lot of commitment and hard work. “I feel good, not over confident as I chart out my goals. With the kind of support I am getting, I don’t see any reason why I cannot make it big.

“I am comfortable with the facilities and the support of the Sports School. Since I am in the National camp in Patiala now, I hope things will definitely improve on the personal front. I am sure that with the desired hard work and commitment, I can win more medals,” he said.

Rahul comes from a state that was expected to witness a sea change in weightlifting following Malleswari’s medal winning performance in the Olympics 13 years ago. But that was not to be, as the only SAAP Weightlifting Academy in Srikakulam was wound up and the AP Sports School happens to be the only major centre to train young weightlifters now.

Not far away, coach S. A. Singh gently reminds that Rahul has the potential to be a champion lifter at the highest level for the simple reasons that he works hard, is a very keen learner, trains intensely and has the desire to keep improving.