Achinta Sheuli casts a thoughtful smile as he holds the Commonwealth Games gold medal in one hand and a mascot in the other. He’s measured in his celebration, and calm despite the tremendous achievement. Late on Sunday night, at the NEC Hall in Birmingham, the 20-year-old weightlifter won India’s third gold at Birmingham 2022, in the men’s 73 kg weight-division.
Yet his mind remained not on the accolade, but on that sense of vindication. The sense that all that he and his family had endured, he had now finally made the effort worth it. Promptly, he gave thanks and dedicated his medal to his older brother Alok along with his coach.
“This medal is really important in my life. I want more in life. I want to dedicate this to my coach here and also to my brother. My brother backed me after my father’s death those (many) years back by leaving his game,” he said later to Sony Sports Network.
Years ago, before Achinta stood on the podium in Birmingham having lifted a Games record total of 313 kg for the gold (170 kg in clean and jerk and a Games record 143 kg in snatch), the native of the Deulpur village in West Bengal used to sit with his mother and older brother and together they’d work hard and embroidering necklines of kurtas.
The Sheuli family earlier used to get by what Achinta’s father Pratik would earn as a manual labourer. But once he died in 2013, the family had to get together and start earning a living. That meant that Alok would have to forgo his own ambitions to become a weightlifter to work on the embroidery.
“It was 12 hours a day, seven days a week. On a very good week, with the three of us working, we would make Rs 1,200. On an average week, it was less,” he told Sportstar.
When the fine needle-work started to run dry, the brothers would cease other opportunities to make some money.
“No job was too small for us to do. Achinta and I worked in the fields, we harvested crops and carried the loads on our heads,” Alok said adding they did manual labour in a field for a week at one point.
Through all this though, efforts were made to allow Achinta an opportunity to forge a name for himself in weightlifting – a sport introduced to him by his brother at a local gym near their home.
Achinta would find a break in the sport when he finished fourth in the youth category of the 2014 national championship. That was enough for him to catch the attention of an Army Sports Institute coach, who offered the boy a spot at their base in Pune.
It was an opportunity the family grabbed without hesitation, for it guaranteed Achinta a chance to train and more importantly, get three meals a day.
Steadily, he started to grow physically and in weightlifting stature. In 2018 he won silver at the Asian Youth Championships, gold at the Commonwealth Championships a year later, and in 2021 became the first Indian man to stand on the podium at the Junior World Championships – after winning silver.
Along the way, the family of the Havaldar with the Indian Army’s financial burdens decreased. Yet Achinta remains grounded, never forgetting where he came from.
“Everyone is focused on phones nowadays. But you need to have a target in life,” the Reliance Foundation sponsored athlete had said during an interaction arranged by the Sports Authority of India a few weeks ago. He had joined the Elite Athlete Scholarship programme in April 2019 and worked with with the Sir H.N. Reliance Hospital in various aspects like nutrition and fitness, that allowed him to develop.
One of his most important performances came at the end of 2021 when he created new national records of 173kg in clean & jerk and 316kg in total and secured a direct qualification to the Commonwealth Games 2022 by winning Gold at the Senior Commonwealth Championships, the results of which were derived from the IWF Senior World Championships.
With this gold, he knows it is just the start.
“I wanted to fight as my family background was not too good. I knew I had to do a lot and face a lot of challenges and therefore, I tried improving step-by-step.”
On Sunday, he was the best in his category by a whopping 10 kgs. Yet he maintained in the interview with broadcasters that he harboured higher targets.
“There is a little bit of disappointment in not breaking my best, but I’m happy with the gold. I was fighting for my best performance and not the gold,” he said.
But he smiled for the cameras, and held a hand above his heart as he sang the national anthem during the medal ceremony.
The needle he once wielded weighs but a few grams. But just like his journey since then, his weightlifting career has come a long way.
Achinta Sheuli Factfile:
Date of Birth: 24/11/2001 Hometown: Howrah, West Bengal Training Base: NS NIS Patiala Coach: Vijay Sharma
Background: (Few background points about the athlete)
Achinta started weightlifting in the year 2011, idolizing his brother who was also a former weightlifter. He later joined Army Sports Institute in 2015 and continued to excel in the sport. Same year in 2015 he was on boarded in the Indian National Camp. In 2016 & 2017 he again trained at ASI, after which he has been in the National camp since 2018. Having lost his Father at a very young age, Achinta’s mother Purnima Sheuli and his brother always supported him to follow his passion for weightlifting and represent the country on the International stage.
Achievements before CWG gold
1. 2021 Commonwealth Senior Championship Gold Medalist— Information provided by Sports Authority of India
2. 2021 Junior World Championship Silver Medalist
3. 2019 Commonwealth Senior & Junior Championship Gold Medalist 4. 2018 Asian Youth Championship Silver Medalist
5. 2015 Commonwealth Youth Championship Silver Medalist
Achinta Sheuli's performance graph
|2015||Commonwealth Youth Championship, Pune||56 kg||92||120||212||Silver|
|2018||Asian Youth Championship, Urgench UZB||69 kg||123||151||274||Silver|
|2018||Asian Junior Championship, Urgench UZB||69 kg||123||151||274||5th|
|2018||IWF Junior World Championship, Tashkent||69 kg||129||162||291||6th|
|2018||IWF World Championship, Ashgabat TKM||73 kg||135||166||301||28th|
|2019||Asian Championship, Ningbo CHN||73 kg||137||160||297||11th|
|2019||Commonwealth Senior Championship, Apia||73 kg||136||169||305||Gold|
|2019||Commonwealth Junior Championship, Apia||73 kg||136||169||305||Gold|
|2019||IWF World Championship, Pattaya THA||73 kg||135||166||301||25th|
|2019||Asian Junior Championship, Pyongyag PRK||73 kg||133||170||303||5th|
|2021||2020 Asian Championship, Tashkent UZB||73 kg||139||170||309||7th|
|2021||IWF Junior World Championship, Tashkent||73 kg||141||172||313||Silver|
|2021||IWF World Championship, Tashkent UZB||73 kg||143||173||316||7th|
|2021||Commonwealth Senior Championship, Tashkent UZB||73 kg||143||173||316||Gold|