“This is a Samoan magic necklace, which we use for good luck and friendship,” Loane is said to have whispered into the Indian’s ear, in those scant moments before national anthems are played, flags are unfurled and the tears flow. “You, Jeremy are my friend, and this is my way of showing respect,” the 34-year-old nodded to his much-younger, prodigious colleague.
Just 19, Jeremy Lalrinnuna was already garnering the respect of his much-older colleagues. It was their way of saying that his time has come. “When we compete against each other, I would not like to give him an inch. I play hard,” he would tell us later.
Our Yuva Shakti is creating history! Congratulations to @raltejeremy, who has won a Gold in his very first CWG and… https://t.co/iI6TWCoeSC
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1659264229000
Congratulations, Jeremy Lalrinnunga for winning gold in Weightlifting at #CommonwealthGames. Your self-belief despi… https://t.co/Bn4cOIMqFu
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) 1659265311000
The strong wise man from the south Pacific was not lying. Because only moments before, he had reduced his younger colleague to tears in only the manner that seasoned older men can do to tyros in the heat of battle.
It was the Samaon’s third and final clean and jerk attempt, and the anxiety was palpable in the Indian camp. Loane was going for a massive 174kg, and although top of the leaderboard, the Indian teenager Jeremy Lalrinnunga was grimacing in pain. It was weightlifting hell, the worst fears coming true in Jeremy’s short weightlifting life.
A successful lift by Loane would have given him the gold medal. Because in his second lift, the Samoan had lifted 167kg – a good 7kg more than Jeremy’s best clean and jerk for the day earlier. The odds, yes, were in favour of Loane.
At this juncture, look what was happening with Jeremy. He had injured his lower back in his second clean and jerk lift — a successful 160kg. The 19-year-old hurt himself again during his third lift when attempting 165kg. The Mizoram lad had just failed by the narrowest of margins when he couldn’t get barbell over his head for a successful jerk. That’s not all. In his first lift — a successful 154kg hoist — Jeremy seemed to have injured his leg.
Then as the scenes were flashing before his eyes, and the Samoan stumbled in his third lift, someone shook Jeremy awake, as it were. And the boy, impatient to be a man, just started crying. He was simply inconsolable. Chief coach Vijay Sharma put his arm around Jeremy and gently gave him the sense of the situation. It was simple. He had just won the gold medal in the 67kg category for India with a total lift of 300kg (140kg snatch + 160kg clean and jerk). The flowing tears were of pure relief and of pain.
When TOI reached backstage to congratulate him, composure was beginning to take hold. Wiping off the tears, forcing a business smile, he grabbed this correspondent’s arm as he hobbled out. The international media was waiting. “Bhaiya aap bhi chalo! Please translate my Hindi to English (Brother, please come with me. I need you to translate my Hindi replies into English).”
“You know, I wasn’t able to walk for a while,” he told TOI, “I have lifted better previously. The warm-ups were good but after a point my thigh muscles began to cramp. I was expecting to perform better in the clean and jerk.”
Watched by his idol Mirabai Chanu, who won gold on Saturday, Jeremy was all supreme in snatch, taking a 10kg lead going into the clean and jerk. He first snatched 136kg, then smashed the CWG record in his second by lifting 140kg. There was wide grin after the second lift. He knew it was a done deal. He tried 143kg – two more than his personal best of 141 that came at the Commonwealth Championships in Tashkent last December – but couldn’t hold on to his balance. Nigeria’s Edidiong Joseph Umofia – the bronze winner – was second going into the clean and jerk with 130kg as his best. Loane’s best was 127kg after the snatch.
As Jeremy’s name was announced as the winner of 67kg men’s lifting event, the packed hall that comprised mostly Britishers who were in there to support local lifter Jaswant Singh Shergill (finished fourth) stood up and cheered like there was no end.
The respect for Jeremy has surely increased in the lifting circles, but his real test will be now as he looks to make a transition to the Olympic weight category of 73kg. “If all goes well and I stay injury-free then I should be there at the Paris Olympics,” he said bravely, the sniffles of earlier, a distant memory.