This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Sukhen Dey has seen many ups and downs in his distinguished weightlifting career so far. The 25-year-old lifter from West Bengal, who is employed with the Army, is one of the known faces of Indian weightlifting having won the coveted gold and silver medals at the 2014 and 2010 Glasgow and New Delhi Commonwealth Games respectively. Sukhen, who is training hard for the upcoming Asian Championships as well the World Championships, is upbeat about making the cut for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The country’s ace weightlifter spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q You are training hard for the upcoming 45th Asian Weightlifting Championships to be held in Kathmandu. How are the preparations going on?
Well, I have started training at our ongoing national camp which started at NIS Patiala on April 1. Around 15 weightlifters are training in the senior category and the camp will run until November when the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship will be held in Houston, USA. I’m coming off a right shoulder injury at the national camp prior to the 2014 World Weightlifting Championship held at Almaty, Kazakhstan last November. I had to miss the 2014 World Weightlifting Championship and was out of training for close to four months.
As far as the 45th Asian Weightlifting Championship is concerned, it is like starting from scratch for me training-wise since I had a long injury lay-off. This is the third time that I will be playing in the Asian Weightlifting Championship – I had taken part in 2009 and 2013 on both occasions in Kazakhstan. The trials for the 2015 edition are likely to be held in May-end and hopefully I will compete in Kathmandu.
Q You won the silver medal in the 56-kg category at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and followed it up with a gold medal in the 56-kg category at the 2014 Incheon Asiad. How would you look at the memories of these achievements?
When I look back, I feel I should have won the gold in 2010 but I missed my final weight which allowed Malaysia’s Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim to walk away with the gold. Coincidentally, in 2014 Commonwealth Games I beat a Malaysian - Zulhelmi Md Pisol – for the gold in the same weight category.
Q You wanted to be a body builder, but ended up being a weightlifter. How did the switch happen?
I used to do body building at a gym near my house in Andul in West Bengal’s Howrah district in 2003. Gradually, I saw some weightlifting events and was impressed by the way the crowds cheered and how the lifters were made to look like heroes. I started weightlifting training under Ajay Majhi. I was enrolled in Army Sports Institute in 2004 and made my senior international debut in 2005 in an Asian Meet in Kazakhstan, where I won the gold.
Q Weightlifters don’t find it easy to land jobs in India. When did you join the Army?
I joined the Army in 2008 as Havildar and then after my silver medal effort in the 2010 CWG, I was promoted to JCO and now I work as a Subedar.
Q You hail from an economically-disadvantaged family – so how do you use manage your training?
I find it hard to manage everything with my salary of Rs. 34,000 as I have to maintain our training as well as support my family. My dad is ageing and two of my brothers are doing small jobs.
Q You had tested positive at the 2011 Continental Clubs Grand Prix Weightlifting Championships held in Penang Malaysia. How did you overcome that tricky phase?
I was feeling embarrassed about what people would think about me. I was wondering whether people will think if I’m taking steroids to win medals. My two-year ban ended in 2013 and I played in the nationals and came good at the 2014 CWG. I take supplements which we think are right for us, but if any supplement powder has steroids in it, how do we know? I knew I was not taking any performance enhancing drugs.
Q Indian weightlifting has been rocked by a spate of doping scandals over the years. How do you think it is happening?
Lack of awareness about what to take and what not to is a factor. Generally, supplements bought from non-Indian companies are quite expensive, but are more authentic than the Indian companies – some if not all would mix steroids with supplement powder. So if any weightlifter uses supplement and gets enhanced results, he tells others who will use and this is how they face the dire consequences.
Q What is the maximum number of tournaments a weightlifter can compete in a year in order to deliver optimum performance?
At the most, a weightlifter can feature in three tourneys in a year as conditioning is so very important. Playing in three events can help a weightlifter to deliver his best as the sport involves so much of hard training and diet control.
Q How do you rate your chances of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics?
First of all, I have to stay injury-free and keep working hard. My world ranking is number 16 at the moment and the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships in Houston will serve as an Olympic qualifier. I think I will need to lift 115 kg in snatch and 145 kg in clean and jerk, which should be good enough to make the cut.