It’s like the first impact trauma of a headlong accident. Or like the head going under, for a drowning non-swimmer. But the way Sukhen Dey, India’s first male gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games puts it, in the life of every difficult weight-lift there comes one moment which is akin to a bulb fusing out.
“It’s like a black-out. You can clean out a weight but in the exact moment when you put your everything into a jerk, and the neck gets a sudden snap, there can be a black-out, and you feel oxygen disappearing,” says the 56 kg lifter whose total of 248 kg (109+139) for gold, brightened up every single black-out he’s suffered in his life.
The last such incident happened at Nagpur at the trials of these Commonwealth Games. “Temperatures were above 45 degrees, and with the pressure combined with heat I could almost hear my nerves snap,” he recalls.
In weight-lifting parlance, it’s called a wash-out.
But it’s when the athlete resolves to go for the jerk, focuses all his energy into an upward lug, and one foot wings out — like the landing gear of an aeroplane — to steady the body that a blood-rush can play tricks that lifters are dreadful of.
A ‘washed-out’ Dey was still persisted with after Nagpur yielded a poor fifth place, because selectors knew he could crank it up on the big stage, but going into Glasgow, Dey was carrying weights heavier than what fetched him gold.
The 25-year old had a silver at Delhi and though none of the coaches had chastised him, he had seen the look on their face that said he had lost a chance to win India’s first at Delhi, after he’d botched a 146 kg jerk. He was determined to never see that “consolation silver prize” again.
“I’d taken it as a challenge to win gold this time. This time I’d trained hard and didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” he said.
Yet, he was staring at a familiar feeling of a deep sink when he flubbed two of his snatch attempts at the SECC on Thursday. A pair of South African and Malaysian were riding on bravado with fist-pumps and showmanship, while the two Indians – Dey and Ganesh Mali – having entered on higher weights, stayed intensely focussed on the task at hand.
It was an almighty clean & jerk attempt of 139kg, where Dey went for broke. “I knew it was all about that one lift. I repeated no mistakes,” he says. “I wanted my country’s first gold. I’d trained for it,” he adds, even as the tricolour going up and national anthem all rushed past all too fast. “I know when Indians watched it from stands, even they felt continued…