JALANDHAR: Punjab powerlifter Rajinder Rahelu stole the limelight on the penultimate day of the 2014 Commonwealth Games winning silver in the men’s heavyweight powerlifting competition on Saturday.
Rahelu, whose legs were affected with polio, picked up a total of 180.5 kg to get the silver, while Nigerian Abdulazeez Ibrahim clinched the gold with a lift of 197 kg. Malaysian Jong Yee Khie got the bronze with a lift of 178 kg. An Arjuna awardee, Rahelu hails from Jalandhar and had also won bronze at the Athens Para-Olympics in 2004. He had, however, narrowly missed out on a medal at the London games two years back.
Rahelu’s family, wife Jaswinder Kaur and 6-year-old daughter Riddhima, celebrated his win at their home village in Mehsampur, which is near Phillaur. Working as a coach with the Punjab sports department, Rahelu trains the specially-abled powerlifters at an academy in Gohawar village near Goraya.
Recollecting Rahelu’s struggle to the top, Dr Manjit Singh, director physical education at the Ramgarhia College in Phagwara, says, “He (Rahelu) would come on a tri-cycle to our college where he practiced regularly. As his tri-cycle could not go everywhere, he would move around walking with his hands and I feel this grit has taken him so far. It was also encouraging for other sportspersons in the college.”
“Looking at his hard work and keenness for the game the college also decided to waive all his fee and he also turned out to be gem,” he added. Polio-afflicted when he was just one year old, Rahelu was trained by Captain Piara Singh in his formative weightlifting career. He has been a national champion in his weight category for eight consecutive years, from 1998 to 2006, and has a gold in the 2002 Asian Championship to his credit.
The Jalandhar man’s struggle for economic sustainability came as late as 2010, when, after several pleas, the Punjab government finally decided to employ him as a coach.