“It’s a magic Samoan necklace, which we use for luck and friendship,” Loane reportedly whispered in the Indian’s ear, in those rare moments before the national anthems were played, the flags were are deployed and the tears do not flow. “You, Jeremy, are my friend, and that’s my way of showing respect,” the 34-year-old told his much younger and prodigious colleague.
At just 19, Jeremy Lalrinnuna already earned the respect of his much older colleagues. It was their way of saying his time had come. “When we play each other, I wouldn’t give him an inch. I play hard,” he would tell us later.
Our Yuva Shakti is making history! Congratulations to @raltejeremy, who won a gold medal in his first ever CWG and… https://t.co/iI6TWCoeSC
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1659264229000
Congratulations, Jeremy Lalrinnunga on winning weightlifting gold at the #CommonwealthGames. Your self-confidence despises you… https://t.co/Bn4cOIMqFu
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) 1659265311000
The wise and strong of the South Pacific was not lying. Because moments before, he had made his younger colleague cry the only way seasoned older men can do to tyros in the heat of battle.
It was Samaon’s third and final clean and jerk attempt, and the anxiety was palpable in the Indian side. Loane was aiming for a whopping 174kg, and despite leading the leaderboard, Indian teenager Jeremy Lalrinnunga was grimacing in pain. It was weightlifting hell, with Jeremy’s worst fears coming true in his short life as a weightlifter.
A successful comeback from Loane would have earned him the gold medal. Because during his second lift, the Samoan had lifted 167 kg, 7 kg more than Jérémie’s best clean and jerk the day before. The odds, yes, were in Loane’s favor.
At this point, look at what was going on with Jeremy. He injured his lower back during his second clean and jerk – a success of 160 kg. The 19-year-old injured himself again on his third lift attempting 165kg. The Mizoram lad had just failed by the narrowest of margins when he couldn’t get the bar above his head for a successful jerk. That’s not all. During his first lift – a successful lift of 154 kg – Jeremy appeared to have injured his leg.
Then, as the scenes flashed before his eyes and the Samoan stumbled into his third elevator, someone shook Jeremy to wake him up. And the boy, impatient to be a man, began to cry. He was just inconsolable. Head Coach Vijay Sharma put his arm around Jeremy and gently gave him a sense of the situation. It was simple. He had just won the gold medal in the 67 kg category for India with a total lift of 300 kg (140 kg snatch + 160 kg clean and jerk). The tears that flowed were of pure relief and pain.
When TOI arrived backstage to congratulate him, calm began to set in. Wiping away his tears, forcing a business smile, he grabbed the correspondent’s arm as he hobbled. International media were waiting. “Bhaiya aap bhi chalo! Please translate my Hindi to English (Brother please come with me. I need you to translate my Hindi answers to English).
“You know I couldn’t walk for a while,” he told TOI, “I got better on my feet before. Warm-ups were good but after a while my thigh muscles started to have cramps. I expected to perform better in the clean and jerk.
Watched by his idol Mirabai Chanu, who won gold on Saturday, Jeremy was supreme in the snatch, taking a 10kg lead in the clean and jerk. He first snatched 136 kg, then smashed the CTM record in his second by lifting 140 kg. There was a broad smile after the second lift. He knew it was done. He tried 143kg – two more than his personal best of 141 achieved at the Commonwealth Championships in Tashkent last December – but couldn’t maintain his balance. Nigerian Edidiong Joseph Umofia – the bronze medalist – finished second in 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 the men’s 67kg weightlifting event, the packed hall which included mostly Britons who were there to support local weightlifter Jaswant Singh Shergill (finished fourth) swung got up and clapped like there was no end.
Respect for Jeremy has surely grown in lifting circles, but his real test will be now as he seeks to make a transition to the 73kg Olympic weight class. “If all goes well and I stay injury-free, I should be there at the Paris Olympics,” he said bravely, the sniffles from earlier a distant memory.