WEIGHTLIFTING Other Sports

Jeremy ready for the heavy lifting needed to taste glory

Lalrinnunga Jeremy IND roars in delight after taking the Gold Medal with a successful lift of 150kg during the Weightlifting Mens 62kg Group A competition in the Europa Pavilion, Youth Olympic Park during The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday 8th October 2018. Jonathan Nackstrand for OIS/IOC/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Lalrinnunga Jeremy IND roars in delight after taking the Gold Medal with a successful lift of 150kg during the Weightlifting Mens 62kg Group A competition in the Europa Pavilion, Youth Olympic Park during The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday 8th October 2018. Jonathan Nackstrand for OIS/IOC/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

An increase of 25kg in eight months is a big target for any weightlifter. But 19-year-old Jeremy Lalrinnunga, a naib subedar in the Indian Army, believes he can achieve the mark and become the country’s first male lifter to land an Asian Games medal after 36 years.

The lockdown during the pandemic’s first wave, a knee injury and then a bout of COVID during the third wave have disturbed Jeremy’s plans but not his resolve. The viral infection actually allowed him a much-needed break to recuperate from an upper back injury that had held him back a bit at the World Championships in Tashkent last month.

Jeremy finished seventh in the 67kg weight category on his World Championships debut and claimed the top spot among the lifters who were concurrently in the Commonwealth Championships (CWC) race.

His path to the CWC gold was far from a given, though. The presence of Pakistan’s Talha Talib, who lifted a total of 320kg to place fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, was the biggest roadblock. After Talib bombed in clean and jerk, Jeremy took the top place and qualified for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. He took heart from the fact that he could lift 305kg, one kg less than his personal best, in spite of his aching back.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - OCTOBER 21: Weightlifting gold medalist Jeremy Lalrinnunga during the IOA Felicitation Ceremony for Team India Medalists of Buenos Aires 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, at Hyatt Hotel, on October 21, 2018 in New Delhi, India. The IOA felicitated the Youth Olympic Games medal winners with a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh, Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI, INDIA - OCTOBER 21: Weightlifting gold medalist Jeremy Lalrinnunga during the IOA Felicitation Ceremony for Team India Medalists of Buenos Aires 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, at Hyatt Hotel, on October 21, 2018 in New Delhi, India. The IOA felicitated the Youth Olympic Games medal winners with a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh, Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

 

“About 15 days before the World Championships, I had an upper back injury. I performed at about 90% of my capacity,” says Jeremy.

Having resumed his training at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, after recovering from COVID, Jeremy is readying himself for the hectic 2022 calendar — studded with the prestigious Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

“Expectations will be high. The prospect of competing with Talib [especially in the Commonwealth Games] fills me with a lot of enthusiasm,” says Jeremy.

The Asian Games in Hangzhou will be tougher. In Tokyo, six of the top 10 finishers in 67kg (including Chinese Olympic champion Lijun Chen, who did 332kg) were from Asia.

If Jeremy achieves the twin objectives of reaching a mark of around 330kg and stepping onto the podium in the continental Games, then he would likely gather the self-belief to take the big leap towards realising his Olympics dream.

Following a major reshuffle in weight categories for the Paris Olympics, Jeremy is planning to switch to 73kg post the Asian Games. Going by Tokyo standards, Jeremy will have to lift more than 340kg to be in with a chance for a podium finish in 2024.

“There will be old and new guys [after the change in weight classes]. After a few events we will know what range the medals will come in,” says Jeremy.

For the naturally gifted lifter, the other big challenge lies within him.

“Jeremy’s body is a bit sensitive and he falls ill very quickly. Also, his bodyweight barely stays around his competition category of 67kg. He does not gain weight easily. That's a problem. We are consulting a nutritionist and it has helped. If he takes care of his diet, then he can gain weight,” says chief coach Vijay Sharma.

Jeremy agrees. “I need to be more disciplined and take care of my food to gain weight. I need to increase my carbohydrate and protein intake. My technique is better, but recovery and diet are the areas to work on.

“Some meats, like that of horse and cow [that help gain weight], are not easily available here. The hot weather in our country makes recovery difficult,” says Jeremy, listing the challenges.

Jeremy thinks that once he attains a bodyweight of 73kg he can attempt a clean and jerk mark of around 195kg. His best (167kg) came at the National championships in Kolkata two years back.

In Tokyo, Chinese Zhiyong Shi, the gold winner in 73kg with a total of 364kg, lifted 198kg in clean and jerk. Venezuelan Julio Ruben Pernia (346kg) and Indonesian Rahmat Erwin Abdullah (342kg), the silver and bronze medallists respectively, did an identical 190kg.

In snatch, Jeremy achieved a world class mark (a new National record of 141kg) in Tashkent. Abdullah’s snatch effort (152kg) in Tokyo puts Jeremy’s performance in perspective.

Jeremy is keen on taking up the uphill task. When leave was granted for the Christmas and New Year holidays, he refused to go home in order to stay focused.

Sharma feels that missing out on the Olympics is a big lesson for the youngster, who has been working with a new-found enthusiasm. “For one year, Jeremy’s progress was stagnant. Because of the lockdown and postponement of the Olympics by one year, the qualifying period changed. He could not give his best after returning from home and the slot was taken by a Korean. It’s a big lesson,” says Sharma.

However, Jeremy feels the break during the lockdown was much-needed. “In 2020 there was no training. Everything closed down at the NIS. I met a psychologist who said, ‘You go away and take a break.’

“My performance at the Olympics qualifier and other events got affected due to the knee injury, for which I got treated in Mumbai,” says Jeremy.

The setback has fuelled his ambition for Olympic glory. And his training seems to be on the right track.

In his quest for excellence, Jeremy finds Mirabai Chanu’s Tokyo Olympics silver a source of inspiration. “ Didi has been training with us and motivating us. After her Olympics medal, there is a lot of enthusiasm in all of us.

“She says there is a lot of potential in the North-East, but people don’t know the region well. Some even think Mizoram is in another country,” says Jeremy, who donned the traditional Mizoram attire — a black and white checked half-sleeved shirt and a matching bandana — to receive his maiden National gold medal in Kolkata.

Sharma has seen a different version of Jeremy in the last six months. “Mira’s medal has instilled a new belief in him,” notes Sharma.

His Youth Olympics gold medal (in 62kg) also motivates Jeremy. “It gives me a lot of confidence. I watch my old pictures and lifting videos.”

Jeremy’s father Lalnnaihehtlua, a National-level medal-winning boxer, is a pillar of strength for the Aizawl boy, who sports tattoos of a lifter and a boxer with dates — July 7, 1988 (when his father began boxing) and November 11, 2011 (when he touched the barbell) — inscribed in Roman numerals.

“I tell Jeremy, ‘Give your best, god is up there,’” says Lalnnaihehtlua, about his third of five sons.

Sharma’s support is rock-solid as well. “Competing in the Olympics would have been good for Jeremy. Even without it, we can work hard. He has performed at the Youth Olympics and will gather experience at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games,” says Sharma.

Jeremy’s track record — a 32kg improvement (from 274kg at the Youth Olympics to 306kg at the Qatar International Cup in December 2019) in 14 months — makes Sharma believe that Jeremy can increase his aggregate by a quarter of a quintal in eight months for the Asian Games.

If he achieves this, then getting to the next target — raising the total by another 12-15kg for the Olympics — in 22 months should not be an improbable task.

Jeremy has pinned a tweet, featuring a picture of him with Neeraj Chopra and Mirabai, to show where his heart is. And he knows what he needs to do to follow in the footsteps of one of his role models, multiple World and Olympics champion lifter Lu Xiaojun of China. It’s now just a matter of getting there.


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 23, 2022 7:49:36 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/jeremy-ready-for-the-heavy-lifting-needed-to-taste-glory/article38305607.ece