After succeeding in his first clean and jerk lift in the men’s 67kg event at the Commonwealth Games, Jeremy Lalrinnunga collapsed to the podium on all fours and needed help to return backstage.
The 19-year-old developed cramps in his thigh just as he began his warm-up before the lifts. In a sport where lifters often heave weights thrice their own body weight, not having a proper warm-up can be dangerous. That, however, is not how Jeremy does things.
He would, soon, go on to win the biggest senior gold medal of his career.
The youngster has struggled with injuries since his Youth Olympics triumph in 2018. A surgery to remove a cyst in his knee meant an under-prepared Jeremy didn’t finish on the podium at the 2021 Asian Championships and Junior World Championships. He recovered enough to finish seventh at the 2021 senior World Championship and claim gold at the Commonwealth Championships.
But a spinal injury in February this year put his participation in Birmingham in serious doubt. “It was a little disappointing because I had to completely stop training for a month. In that time, I only did therapy work and strengthening. It was very frustrating,” he told Sportstar earlier.
In the final on Sunday, Jeremy smashed the competition in the snatch, lifting 140kg - 10kg more than his closest rival. So when something like cramps threatened to derail his title charge at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre on Sunday, Jeremy was having none of it.
“I just told my coach ‘Take me to the stage and I’ll lift whatever you give me’. So my coach did the calculations and told me what to lift,” he said in a press conference organised by the Indian Olympic Association after his triumph.
Struggling with pain, Jeremy strode out for his second attempt and nailed the 160kgs lift letting out a roar and simultaneously going down on his knees knowing he had all but won India’s second gold in Birmingham.
Battling pain and cramps, the 19-year-old was out for a final time to try and better his personal best with a 165kgs lift. However, his elbow gave way and he was on his back writhing in pain. Any other lifter in Jeremy’s place would have not risked a five kilo bump when suffering from cramps. More so when they were 10kg clear of their nearest challenger.
But for Jeremy, that 165kg attempt meant more. It was a way to show the world that he had put his injuries behind him and is finally primed to fulfill his immense potential. His phone wallpaper since May this year had been a Commonwealth Games gold medal to remind himself what the past few years have been leading up to.
“After Youth Olympics, I haven’t achieved such a big thing like this. This is my first medal at senior level competition and I have had to face a few injuries. People kept asking me, ‘When are you going to bring medals?’ And I kept working hard to win a medal for my country. I couldn’t give the performance as I expected but I’ve achieved what I wanted to,” he said.
With the national anthem playing out in the background, Jeremy saluted the rising Indian flag with a smile spreading across his face. He perhaps realised it was time to change the wallpaper to the Olympic rings.
Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Fact file
Date of Birth: 26/10/2002
Hometown: Aizawl, Mizoram
Training Base: NS NIS Patiala
Coach: Vijay Sharma
Past achievements: Most latest – CWG 2022 men’s 67kg gold medallist
1. 2016 Youth World Championship Silver medalist— Via Sports Authority of India media team
2. 2016 Asian Youth Championship Silver medalist
3. 2017 Youth World Championship Silver medalist
4. 2017 Commonwealth Junior Championship Gold Medalist
5. 2017 Commonwealth Youth Championship Gold Medalist
6. 2018 Asian Junior Championship Bronze medalist
7. 2018 Asian Youth Championship Silver medalist
8. 2018 Youth Olympic Games Gold Medalist
9. 2019 EGAT cup International Weightlifting Championship Silver medalist
10. 2019 Asian Youth Championship Gold Medalist
11. 2019 Asian Junior Championship Silver medalist
12. 2019 6th Qatar International Cup Silver medalist
13. 2021 Commonwealth Senior Championship Gold Medalist