Frugal diet, son of a zari worker, Indian Army hawaldar: the makings of CWG gold medallist Achinta Sheuli

On a wall inside the one-storey tile-roof house of Achinta Sheuli at Deulpur in Howrah district, hangs several medals won by the 20-year-old in the course of his journey to Commonwealth Games glory on Sunday. Achinta’s family, which braved extreme poverty, could not afford two square meals per day let alone having a showcase to protect the medals from dust.

His mother, Purnima Sheuli (43), who became a zari (embroidery) worker after the demise of her husband in 2013, says she could not even afford a chicken meal for Achintya as they faced severe financial hardship.

“When he was young, he had asked for a chicken meal. But we could not afford it. He cried a lot that day. But afterwards, he understood our financial conditions and never asked for such a meal again. He relied on starchy rice with coconuts. After he won the gold medal yesterday, he demanded that I must prepare his favourite starchy rice when he arrives home,” Purnima, who earned Rs 700 per week to support her family, told The Indian Express.

On Sunday, Achinta won India’s third gold medal at the CWG in Birmingham in the men’s 73 kg weight division. The weightlifter won the gold in style after creating a new Games record in his event. However, his journey to glory was not an easy one.

His father, who died in 2013, used to work as a van driver. Due to their poor financial condition, his mother started working too.

Achinta’s elder brother, Alok (28), who had introduced Achinta to the world of weightlifting, sacrificed his own dreams and took up odd jobs to support his family.

“Despite our conditions, we never stopped supporting Achinta. We did everything to help him grow as a weightlifter. He had tremendous potential which is evident from his success till now. (On Sunday), we subscribed to a paid sports channel to watch him win the medal,” Alok, who along with Achintya also helped their mother in the embroidery work, told this newspaper. He now works as a contractual worker in the fire brigade department.

It was in 2010 when Achintya began his weightlifting training from local coach Ashtam Das. He found a break after finishing fourth in the youth category of the 2014 national championship, attracting the attention of an Army Sports Institute coach, who offered the boy a spot at their base in Pune.

Thanks to three square meals per day, Achinta grew physically and made his mark in the sport. In 2018, he won silver at the Asian Youth Championships and a year later, gold at the Commonwealth Championships. In 2021, he became the first Indian male to stand on the podium at the Junior World Championships after winning silver. Due to his success in the sport, he was also offered the job of a Havaldar with the Indian Army which reduced some of his financial burdens.

Achinta Sheuli’s family celebrates in Deulpur. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Das, who gives training to local talents free of cost, was seen visibly happy after Achinta’s success. “It was under my wing that he started his training in 2011. Just like his elder brother, he had enough potential. While his brother left the sport to support his family, Achinta continued with weightlifting. He was determined, focused and spirited. Today I feel so happy to see him win important medals. Now Olympics 2024 should be his target,” Das said.

Previously, Achinta’s finest performances came in 2021, when he created new national records of 173kg in clean and jerk and 316kg in total. He also secured a direct qualification to the Commonwealth Games 2022 by winning Gold at the Senior Commonwealth Championships, the results of which were derived from the IWF Senior World Championships.

Since last night, the celebration has not stopped in Deulpur. Locals, especially youngsters, have been playing drums and bursting firecrackers to celebrate his victory. Even people from nearby villages have turned up to congratulate the family. “It is a proud moment for all of us. Before today, no one knew the name of this place. Now, the entire country is aware of his native place. This will bring the focus on young talents who are now dreaming of following in his footsteps,” Sanjib Sheuli, a local resident, said.

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