Gandhinagar (Gujarat) [India], October 3 (ANI): Hailing from a tiny hamlet called Sathuvachari in Tamil Nadu's Vellore District, it was natural for N Ajith, who broke the 73 Kg National Record in Clean & Jerk at the 36th National Games here on Saturday, to fall in love with weightlifting.
After all, over the years, the village had turned into a nursery for lifters, producing dozens of Indian stars, including Olympians like M Tamilselvan and Sathish Sivalingam.
But it was not easy for Ajith to nurture that love as his fruit-selling father in Bangalore was always locked in a battle to make ends meet.
Thankfully, his maternal uncle, Baskaran, a Railway weightlifter, persuaded him to return to his native village, Sathuvachari, reigniting his love for the sport.
Ajith joined the Sports Authority of India Centre in nearby Mayiladuthurai and has steadily been rising up the ranks in lifting.
"That was the turning point," Ajith said, after claiming the National Games gold medal here in Gandhinagar.
Interestingly, with Achinta Sheuli, the Commonwealth Games gold winner, also in the running, Ajith couldn't even think of winning the medal.
"I didn't think of the Services ace at all," Ajith humbly said. "I didn't even look in his direction when he was warming up or when he came to the lifting platform. I was focused on what I had to do, and doing it well," he revealed.
Twenty-three-year-old Ajith's eyes were on his own goal all the time: to do something special so he could break into the Indian team. Sadly, there was no National Games mark to spur him on as the weight classifications had changed.
Undeterred, he went ahead and broke the National Record in Clean & Jerk in his class, lifting 174kg. The mark for Snatch (145kg) was a bridge too far. Even though he gunned for the record for total lifts, he fell short there too.
"I was training to break all three National Records in our weight division. I am happy I could breach one," he said, after his gold medal effort.
Not new to the joys of breaking records since his move back to his village, Ajith had first tasted its sweet success in the National Championships in 2020, when he conquered 140kg in Snatch. He held that mark till August 2021 when Deepak Lather raised it to 145kg.
"I have lifted 147kg in training but since I had a no-lift at 141kg, I had to play safe and complete that on the third attempt," he pointed out.
Ajith is aware that he must be consistent if he is to impress the selectors to break into the National team for the Asian Games next year.
"I met the Chief Coach (Vijay Sharma) to convey my respect and show him my gold medal. He said I could be back in the National Camp. For me, that was very encouraging. But yes, I want to remain consistent with my performances to be selected for India. I will work hard to realise that goal, " Ajith said.
Ajith credits the spurt in his performance to the support he received from Muthupandi Raja. "For some years, we had trained together at the SAI Centre in Mayiladuthurai. He rose to compete for India in the Commonwealth Games in 2018. He helped me by sharing his insights into the sport and improving my training methods," he said. (ANI)