After a breakthrough year in 2010, when he won the silver at the Commonwealth Championship and the gold at the South Asian Games in Bangladesh, Omkar Otari quit weightlifting to take care of his ailing mother.
Two years after her death, he staged a “comeback” last year. On Saturday, he lifted the bronze in the 69 kg category at the Commonwealth Games here.
It was on a gloomy January evening in Kalyan last year, when Otari was in the Western Railways gym, that he decided to lift some weights, just to see if he was “good enough”.
He had “retired” from the sport in 2010-end to look after his mother, who was suffering from cancer. While his mother died in 2011, Otari had not given any thought to his “comeback” till then.
He stacked up the weights and was soon lifting 130 kgs. It was as if he had never been away. The next day he was back in the gym, lifting once again.
A couple of months later, he entered the 69 kg weightlifting nationals and, to the surprise of almost everyone, took home the gold medal. He was immediately drafted into the Indian squad.
“When I won the nationals, I was actually amazed at what my body had done. I knew I was capable of doing something good at Glasgow,” said Otari. On Saturday, he beat off stiff competition, lifting 296 kg to win the bronze.
“I always used to read about people who have made a comeback from impossible situations. I haven’t had the easiest of rides, but I came back to win a Commonwealth medal,” he said.
He recalled that in one of his last conversations with his mother, she told him to seriously think about starting weightlifting again. “She remembered how disappointed I was when I narrowly missed out on a medal in Delhi.
She said all her encouragement for me to pursue the sport should not go to waste. I think my mother would have been wearing the biggest smile on Saturday night, when the medal was around my neck,” he said.
Having lost his father when he was just 15 years old, Otari moved to his uncle’s house in Kurundwad near Kolhapur. A volleyball player, Otari shifted to weightlifting after seeing his cousins practice the sport. He was almost an instant success.