Sathish, the new sensation from Tamil Nadu

The 22-year-old Sathish, hailing from Sathuvachari near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, started his career just five years ago. But his natural talent and the desire to excel ensured his meteoric rise. By Y. B. Sarangi.

S. Sathish Kumar, the newly-crowned Commonwealth Games 77kg weightlifting champion, loves the challenge. In his short career, he has mastered the art of conquering the demons — self-doubt, fear and all sorts of negativity — within .

“I love to fight with my competitors. I like the challenge posed by them,” said the supremely confident Sathish, a new star on the horizon.

The 22-year-old Sathish, hailing from Sathuvachari near Vellore in Tamil Nadu, started his career just five years ago. But his natural talent and the desire to excel ensured his meteoric rise. “My father (Sivalingam) and uncle (Thirumurugan), who was a weightlifter himself, introduced me to the sport and backed me throughout,” Sathish told Sportstar.

Sathish’s father is an ex-serviceman and is working as a security guard in Vellore. “My father supported me whole-heartedly. My family used to cut other expenses to provide whatever I needed — the kit, nutritious food, the supplements etc. Now that I am doing well, their struggle will come to an end.

“I enjoy the sport. It helps one to inculcate good habits and maintain a good health.”

Sathish hogged the limelight in the 2009 National junior championship with a fabulous performance in his debut. He was selected to the National camp and participated in the World junior championship, where he finished 12th.

Then he graduated to the senior level and left his mark by finishing second to the established lifter and the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist K. Ravi Kumar, in the 77kg, in the 2011 National championship in Bangalore. From there, Sathish’s journey was a tale of fortitude.

“After finishing second in Bangalore, I was disheartened. I thought I will never be like Ravi Kumar and can never beat him. However, my family supported me. When he came back after a long injury layoff this year, I knew I had some challenge. After our performances in the training camp, we were sure that both of us will fight for the Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow.”

However, in Glasgow Sathish gave a commanding performance to claim the top honour in style. He raised the bar to set a new snatch record of 149 kg and jumped for joy as he took a decisive lead over Ravi Kumar.

In clean and jerk, Sathish tried to rewrite the Games record, but failed. He settled for a total of 328 kg, beating Ravi Kumar by 11 kg. “I had warmed down a little bit by the time my turn came in the clean and jerk. It would have been great had I set a new record in clean and jerk.

“One year ago, I was not doing so well. I used to do around 300 kg in the camp. But I always knew that I had the capability. I increased four kg in every trial and reached so far.

“After I won the gold, it was nice to be in the centre of attraction in the Indian camp. So many people and athletes came and congratulated me.”

He is the pride of Tamil Nadu and his club, Atlas Gym. “Our club used to produce many well-known lifters. T. Muthu, who was my coach initially, was the last man from our club to win a Commonwealth Games medal and the Arjuna Award about a decade ago. I hope my success will spur the youngsters of my area to take up the sport and our club will once again be a favourite destination for aspiring lifters.”

Having tasted success in the Commonwealth Games, Sathish now wants to do well in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. “It is difficult to maintain weight and acclimatise to different conditions in such a short period of time. But, if I manage to replicate what I did in Glasgow, then I will manage to win a medal.”

National coach Vijay Sharma is confident about Sathish. “If Sathish maintains his good form, I am sure he can bag a medal in the Asian Games. He is young and has got good technique. If he continues his good work, he can do wonders.”

Apart from preparing for the Incheon Games, Sathish hopes to do well in the World championship and book a berth for the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I want to go step-by-step. However, competing in the Rio Olympics is one of my targets,” said Sathish.