One grew up in a village of weightlifters, while the other grazes cattle to support his family. On Wednesday, both shattered national records at the Khelo India University Games.

Sanket Mahadev Sargar re-wrote record books as he lifted a total of 244 kgs to take home the gold in the men's 55kg category. The 19-year-old has made the 55kg category his own, having won gold at the senior nationals and during last month's Khelo India Youth Games.

A student of Kolhapur's Shivaji University, Sanket arrived in Bhubaneswar weighing 1.7 kilos more than the permissible limit and had to reduce his intake massively to be eligible for the contest. “I came here weighing 56.7kgs and had to completely cut down on my carbohydrates before the event. I ate boiled vegetables and salads and even had to restrict my water intake. My calves have begun to cramp,” he says, grimacing as he clutches the back of his right leg.

Hailing from the weightlifting belt of Sangli, the sport was an obvious choice for him. “The children in our locality hardly play any other sports and most of them are into weightlifting. I also began when I was 13 years old,” he says. He trains for close to 12 hours a day and his consistency paid off as he was chosen for the national camp to be held in Patiala from March 10.

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He's now set his mind to switch to the 61kg category, which is part of the Olympics roster. “I want to make it to the 2024 Olympics and will hence have to move to the 61kg category. It will be a huge jump and will take me two years to be fully prepared for the category, but I'm determined to get there,” he says with a shy grin.

‘Good to be back’

Sanket was pushed to the limit by Prashant Suresh Koli, who scripted a new national record in snatch but had to settle for the silver. Prashant has a similar, but a slightly tougher tale.


Prashant Suresh Koli set a new national record in snatch. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


He was around 13 when his father lost his battle to cancer and the teenager had to chip in for the family. While his mother works as a farm help, his brother drives a tempo. Prashant used to contribute by grazing cattle in his village of Mhasavad in Jalgaon district in northern Maharashtra, before his cousin brother's coach asked him to try his luck at weightlifting.

He came to the fore when he won silver at the Inter-University Games, but was soon dealt with a blow as he suffered a bout of typhoid. He was confined to a hospitalised bed and was out of action for eight days.

The illness took away a bit of his physical strength but did not deter him. He returned to the training mat soon after and got back in shape, just in time for his silver-medal winning campaign here. “It feels good to be back,” he announces.