Emotional Gururaja hails coach, dad

Emotional Gururaja hails coach, dad

Gururaja Poojary's voice choked with emotion as he described his telephonic talk with his first coach Rajendra Prasad after landing a silver in his first ever Commonwealth Games appearance.

A moment to cherish for a lifetime had arrived for the Indian weightlifter at the Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre in Gold Coast. "It was his dream. When I called him after the competition I couldn't control my tears. We dreamt of this together," the man from Chittoor village in Kundapura told DH.

Hours after finishing second in the men's 56 kg category with an effort of 249kg, Gururaja's tone reflected content and relief as he thanked the special people who helped his aspirations come true.

"Rajendra sir is my guide to the sport. He was more like a family to me and we shared a great teacher-pupil bond. I dedicate this performance to him," he said.

The 26-year-old, who first wanted to be a wrestler, also turned emotional when he talked about his father Mahabala. "He is a great man. He is the sole reason for where I am today. It takes a lot of self-belief to be a lorry driver and raise six children. There were times when he met with accidents but still he never gave up. He has played a huge role in my life," said Gururaja, who is a sergeant in the Indian Air Force.

Gururaja had to overcome some tense moments en route to the medal. "I knew I would win a medal here but it was a tight final. There was a lot of pressure and I wasn't feeling completely good about my body. I had thigh pain but I had no choice but to go all out. It's unfortunate to have missed out on gold but I am glad I made to the podium," he said.      

'Be happy always' is Gururaja's WhatsApp status. However, five months back, there was nothing much to feel happy about for the Kundapura lifter. An elbow injury in October last had created doubts about his chances at Gold Coast.

"I worked hard and got selected for the Commonwealth Championships in September where I clinched a bronze. But a month later, during a training session, I suffered an elbow injury. I had less time to recover but my coach instilled belief in me," he recollected. To swim against the tide is nothing new for Gururaja. Financial problems existed but like many successful athletes, he found a way to conquer the hurdles.

"For the first five years, I struggled to meet the monetary needs. I participated in the All India University championships regularly and won cash prizes. That somehow kept me going."

Accolades haven't stopped pouring in. Gururaja, however, knows the importance of staying grounded. "With a sport like weightlifting, it requires medals at the highest level to get significant recognition. Prior to this silver, I had won three international medals but this victory has put me in bigger limelight. I wish the support for weightlifting keeps growing. My next target is qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics," he said.

Prasad, a trainer at the SDM Sports Club in Ujire, said Gururaja's courageous attitude gives him an edge when the chips are down. "His first two attempts in clean and jerk were fouls. It was very unlike him. But to come back and do it in the final chance shows how daring he is," Prasad said.

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