Weightlifter Ravi Kumar back to where he belongs

The 30-year-old Odisha lifter, who had emerged as one of the national heroes during the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 by winning a gold medal in 69kg, draws the maximum applause even today when he approaches the lifting platform.

K. Ravikumar with his mother in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

K. Ravi Kumar is still a hero when he enters the weightlifting arena.

The 30-year-old Odisha lifter, who had emerged as one of the national heroes during the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 by winning a gold medal in 69kg, draws the maximum applause even today when he approaches the lifting platform.

Visakhapatnam – 276-km away from Ravi’s home town Berhampur – was like second home to the two-time Commonwealth Games medallist, who could not have chosen a better place outside Odisha to make a superb comeback.

He beat others – including host Railways lifters R.V. Rahul, a current Commonwealth Games gold medallist hailing from Andhra Pradesh, and Harshad Wadekar – hollow in terms of popularity as whistles, loud cheers, grunting and chanting of his name reverberated around the Railway Indoor Sports Enclave during the men’s 89kg contest in the National weightlifting championships here.

READ: Sensational Ravi Kumar regains title

The smiling Ravi would glance at the gathering over his left shoulder while powdering his palms to take on the iron challenge kept barely a few meters away.

His body language was that of a showman. He enjoyed every bit of the attention and drew strength from it as he completed his attempts in snatch to record 150kg. When it's a successful one, he would clench both his fists and flash a wide smile. When not, he would still smile – giving the weights ‘I know where it went wrong’ look.

The story got repeated in clean and jerk as well until the final attempt when he had to do 192kg to get what he was aiming for. He spoke something to the weights and lifted it by gritting his teeth to script a winning total of 342kg. He jumped twice as the whole house erupted in joy.

Claiming a National title after eight years and getting back to the limelight after being forgotten had infused life back in Ravi, whose mother acknowledged his fighting comeback by hugging and kissing him.

“This win is very special,” Ravi told Sportstar.

“I love all the lifters and they have always loved me. Whenever I have competed in any National championships, I have got this kind of support. Visakhapatnam, which is not far from my home town, is like another home town. Andhra lifters supported me a lot and I thank them for this.”

For Ravi, who was out of action after injuring both his knees during the 2014 Asian Games, life was not easy after his silver-winning performance in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. During the injury lay-off, he went through a lot mental turmoil.

“I was under depression after 2014. I had quit weightlifting in 2015 and 2016 and had made up my mind not to continue with the sport. When I got a DSP post in Odisha Police, I thought of doing something for the state. I didn't want to give scope to others to say that Ravi Kumar left the sport after getting a good job at home. That's the main reason why I made a comeback.”

His return last year was not so memorable as he managed the third place in 85kg class. He trained with all seriousness to reach close to his best and take the coveted title.

“It was tough in 89kg. While gaining body weight I recovered from some injuries and picked up a few – like I have got more load on my knees due to the extra weight. My coach Sita Prasad Patnaik supported me completely. Shashank Parida of City Hospital in Berhampur supported me in physiotherapy during the rehab. I was in touch with some Army physios, who also helped. Rehab, training and diet, which I cook at home, have helped me make the comeback.”

Training at home was never easy though. “While doing my training at home, I am missing the diet, a doctor, a physio, a masseur, steam or sauna bath. If I become part of the National camp, then I will get these facilities timely and free of cost. If I stay at home, I have to cook my own food as none at my home eats non-veg. I pay to the physio and masseur. The doctors help me, but for how long can I take free service from them? There is no medical support during my training. There is no nutritionist. I am just managing with my experience. If I go to the India camp, then all these are available.”

So, for how long can he carry on from here?

“I want to compete for the next four years, which will include the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, and retire with a gold medal in a major event,” he signed off.