After Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, many predicted a bright future for weightlifting, especially in her home State Andhra Pradesh. However, the scenario is quite grim now.
There is not a single weightlifting academy under the purview of Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP). The only place with qualified and dedicated coaches where the young weightlifters can hope for better prospects is the Andhra Pradesh Sports School (APSS) in Hakimpet. Ironically, the Srikakulam SAAP Weightlifting Academy (in the home district of Malleswari) where many of the young talented girls, especially from Amudalavalasa, were expected to join and move into the big league had to be closed for different reasons. Worse, there are only four qualified weightlifting coaches now.
In this backdrop, 17-year-old Ragala Venkat who won the gold in the Asian Indoor Games in China recently and his Manipur-born, 67-year-old coach Soraisam Achou Singh stand as symbols of hope for the other youngsters.
Badeti Venkatramaiah, secretary of AP Weightlifting Association, feels there is a need to not only start a full-fledged Academy outside Hyderabad, but also take care of the diet part which comes to Rs. 10,000 per head. “The monthly budget for the existing 12 SAAP Academies in the State is about Rs. 18 lakh. We are badly in need of enhancement as the current budget caters mostly to salaries and maintenance,” says a senior SAAP official.
The sight of Rahul’s coach S.A. Singh slip into the SAAP office on a two-wheeler to accompany his gold medallist to meet the top officials a few days ago was a sad sight in terms of recognition or lack of it. At the same time, it also reflects the spirit Mr. Singh, whose one-point agenda for the last 17 years in the Sports School has been to produce quality weightlifters (four more from APSS are in the Indian camp in different categories).
Notwithstanding Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, little has been done in the State to promote weighlifting