When we reached KFC on Park Street on a rainy Sunday morning (August 14), champion weightlifter Achinta Sheuli was on his phone. The young boy from Deulpur, Howrah, was on his way back home from Delhi. In fact, he’d mostly been travelling ever since he came back to India post winning gold at the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 73kg weight division. Though his eyes looked tired, the twinkle was unmissable. Achinta had under his belt ‘a Games record of 313kg’ with 143kg in snatch and 170kg in clean and jerk. Soft-spoken yet resolute and with unwavering dreams. That’s the Achinta we met, a day prior to the 75th Indian Independence Day. A shining example of breaking free from the shackles of circumstances by dint of hard work backed by talent. The Telegraph chat.
Your phone must have crashed...
Not yet, but I have received a lot of congratulatory calls. Maybe I deserve it.
When did you come back and what has been your schedule till now?
I came back on August 6 to Patiala. August 7, I was in Delhi. Then I had a flight to Jabalpur and I caught a flight back home on August 8. I was home on August 9 and on August 10, I had an early morning event in Delhi. Today I landed from Delhi. I have not had rest. Now, I am headed home. I’ll be home till August 20. There might be last-minute changes. Then I start training again.
Have you had the time to spend with yourself?
Not really. (Smiles)
Your journey is no less than a film...
Maybe I have had to face many hardships, but I never let circumstances affect me. That would have set me back even more. Maybe I would have blamed God. Aami nijeke tar moddhei toiri korechhi. I have made the most of what I had.
You stumbled upon weightlifting, right?
I was flying a kite and ran into a gym. The coach asked me come along and from there started my journey. I had no idea about weightlifting. My elder brother used to ferry me to gym every day. It wasn’t even love at first sight. I gradually developed a liking for it.
Did you adapt to it easily?
There was no pressure on me. My coach Ashtam Das has handheld me. We would practise among friends too. It was fun. I enjoy weightlifting holistically. I started with 25kg and won silver at the district championship.
You think you were born with the talent?
I don’t know about talent, but the circumstances were such that I had to try hard for a better tomorrow. When push comes to shove, you have to try harder. I did so from 2018. Life changed when I joined the Boys Sports Company. I entered the senior level and to retain my place and aim for excellence, I kept pushing myself.
How did life change after joining the Boys Sports Company?
My diet improved. I was 25-30kg at 11. Now, I weigh 74. But I would say, maayer haather taste tai alada. The training schedule changed. The technique changed.
What are the things you skip in a camp, but eat at home?
If I am in a camp, I only eat the egg whites, but if I am at home, I eat the yolk too. (Laughs)
What was your mindset before you set out for Birmingham?
I was there a month before the competition. I did not want to come across as aggressive and focused more on the internal process. I think I have been able to execute it successfully. I would train for close to eight to nine hours. My personal coach Vijay Sharma was there. The training was a mixture of many things. When we travel abroad, changes occur in the diet. Red meat becomes available. I am not in a position to talk two hours prior to the competition. Obostha khub-e kharap thake. Then as the competition progresses, I ease out.
What is a winning moment like? Can you actually feel the depth of the moment?
I wasn’t focusing so much on the medal. The focus was more on performance. I felt current run through me when the Indian flag was being hoisted.
Who did you call first?
I called my brother but he was asleep. I spoke to him the next morning. I celebrated with KFC! I had it in the airport at 5.30am, on August 10. I like KFC. I like leg pieces but can enjoy digging into it rarely.
What is your diet like?
Red meat, salmon, chicken. I eat rice twice a day. Breakfast is usually dalia. I have sweets too, like sandesh. When I want to eat, I eat. I like narkel-bhaat and koraishuti’r kochuri that my mother makes. I have plans to take her on a holiday.
How much is gymming and how much is weightlifting in your schedule?
When I am at a competition, most of it is training and 20-30 per cent is gymming. Now (in the off season), it’s 50 per cent gym. I work out my full body. I meditate too and stretch after training.
What is your favourite pastime?
I mostly watch films and my last watch was Lal Singh Chaddha. I liked it. I have also watched Shamshera.
What are your dreams?
I want to take it slow and easy. There are the Olympic qualifiers coming up. I try to remain relaxed and give my best. Mirabai Chanu (weightlifter) is my favourite.