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17-year-old lifter digs out first gold

Nigeria’s Augustina smashes five Games record as she climbs on top of podium

Written by Aditya Iyer | New Delhi |
October 5, 2010 3:02:45 am

The hands shuddered momentarily,but as the last burst of adrenaline pumped in,Augustina Nkem Nwaokolo found the elusive state of equilibrium; both with the weights above her head and the mind within. As soon as the buzzer confirmed the news,a teary-eyed Nwaokolo leaped into her coach’s arms,even before the iron rod thudded to the ground. The Nigerian had not only won the first gold medal,48 kg women’s,on offer at the 2010 Commonwealth Games,but did it with panache by smashing five CWG records on the way,in only her first ever major event.

On paper,weightlifting is reduced to nothing more than a game of numbers,and Nwaokolo owned every digit of value at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Monday. She was the lightest of the ten lifters to weigh-in (47.32 kgs); she was the only one to be born in the 90s,making her the youngest of the lot at 17; she conquered five lifts (3/3 in snatch and 2/3 clean & jerk) out of six,wrapping up the percentages in her favour by a distance. But in the end,there were only three figures that counted: a snatch of 77kg (Games record) and a clean & jerk of 98kg (Games record) which added up to a total of 175 kg ¿ yet another Games record.

She had a 100 per cent run in the snatch category,but the second lift of 76 kg raised the notch by one,as Kunjarani Devi’s long standing peak of 75 kg was finally toppled. Her snatch of 77 kg reset her own record,giving her the first two records to be set in the Delhi edition,just halfway through her event. The 10 minute break before the clean & jerk round didn’t alter her focus,as Nwaokolo’s rampaging spree continued,setting another record (94kg) and then ruthlessly breaking it (98kg),to add two more to her list.

In the process,Nwokolo bulldozed the long standing previous best overall total (167,Kunjarani again),raising the notch by a whopping eight kilos. So what was the only human error that Nwokolo conceded? She failed to lift 100 kgs in her final attempt,as exhaustion finally set in.

“I sincerely thought she would clinch that too,but unfortunately,everyone gets tired,” Nigeria lifting coach Bassey Patrick said,sporting an I-was-expecting-it-all-along look. He confirms the expression,while explaining Nwaokolo’s training routine. “She had undergone a bio-tech training program that we had planned out for her early in life. Then we began exposing her to different psychological moulds and put her through mental control tests every week. By altering the frequency of pressure,we managed to make her a near perfect weight-lifter in her category,” Patrick added.

Born and raised in Delta State,Nigeria,Nwaokolo claims that she always aimed higher and further than her competitors could see. So while her age-group compatriots aimed to win medals at the Youth Games,Nwaokolo took it a step further. “My objective was always to win gold at the Commonwealth Games,not the under-age tournaments,” said the shy lifter,after the Nigerian national anthem played in the background.

But what makes someone so young brim with confidence? “God’s grace. And I’ve lifted heavier weights in practice,” she says,flashing her routine smile. For Nwaokolo,the numbers were always on her side,but now she’s got a disc of gold and a fistful of records to go with it.

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