Young weight-lifters from Arunachal Pradesh have set the sport as their state’s new identity by performing brilliantly at the recently concluded third Khelo India Youth Games. From a bronze in the event’s first edition to nine medals, including three gold, in the latest one, their leap in the tally is impressive.
“We are sweating it out to take it to the next level. We are happy with the performance,” said Balo Yalam, who won silver in the 55kg category. SAI Naharlagun coach Golden Thanga, who accompanied the team, said it’s an identity for Arunachal Pradesh now. “This year we finished fourth after Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” Thanga added.
Though karate is the most popular sport besides taekwondo in Arunachal, youths are warming to weightlifting.
“If they can keep this momentum going, they will reach the top. They are capable of doing that,” he added.
Thanga, however, added that the state needs more centres of excellence to groom the youngsters. “The only centre at SAI is not big enough. We have just 18 lifters now,” Thanga added.
Many of the players who represented their state at the Khelo India Games come from very poor families. Balo is the 11th among 13 siblings and her parents need to work hard to run the family.
Like any other kids in the neighbourhood, she too started practising taekwondo but the monthly fee of Rs 300 was a bit too high for her. Finally, she got into weightlifting at Sangay Lhaden Sports Academy, the state’s lone sports institute at Chimpu, Itanagar, in December 2014.
Balo has won medals at the national-level championships in junior and sub-junior levels so far.
“I was even interested in gymnastics. But now I’m completely focused on weightlifting. I’m ready to sweat it out to go to the next level,” she added.
A class XI student of Government Higher Secondary School, Ganga, Itanagar, Balo is equally focused on her studies.
“My family supports me a lot despite our financial hardships,” she added.
Phanjoubam Roshni (under 21), who created a junior national record in 71kg, is another bright prospect of the state in weightlifting. So is Golom Tinku, who also set a new national record in 55kg. Roshni, who lifted a total of 183kg to win gold, also won gold in the Khelo India’s Pune edition.
Roshni, a Manipur resident, represents Arunachal Pradesh. She was into taekwondo before switching to weightlifting at SAI Naharlagun.
“I had developed a back pain while playing taekwondo. Then I turned to weightlifting. Initially I didn’t have much idea about the sport. I kept on losing for five years. But I continued to work hard. Finally, I started winning from September 2018. I want Arunachal to march ahead in sport,” Roshni said.
The other medal winners are Markio Tario (gold), Techi Nadam, Charu Pesi and Bengia Tania (silver) and Shankar Lapung and Liza Kamsha (bronze).