Gururaja Poojary aka P Gururaja, one of the prominent weightlifters of India, has made his country proud again by opening the gates for India’s wins in the 2018 Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Son of a pick-up-truck driver from Chitturu village in Kundapur taluk of Udupi district, 25-year-old Gururaja entered the 56 kg category, and clinched the silver medal.
Gururaja, the fifth son of Mahabala Poojary and Paddu Poojary couple, hails from a very humble background. He completed primary education at Vandse village and later joined a school managed by Sri Mookambika temple, Kollur. He drew inspiration from Suresh Shetty Hosmat, who was the physical education instructor, while he was studying in PU.
He ventured into wrestling but ended up becoming a weightlifter. He was trained under Rajendra Prasad, while doing under graduation at SDM College, Ujire.
“When I started weightlifting in 2010, things were hard at home. I needed money for my diet and supplements, but my father couldn’t support me. We were a family of eight. Things are better now,” said an Gururaja.
How Gururaja overcame challenges
Gururaja remembers a decade old accident on the stretch that passed anonymously but shook his family and almost forced him out of the sport. His father was ferrying mostly brick from Mangaluru to different parts of the state to sustain his wife and eight children. For nearly a week, though, leading up to the wedding, the truck was in the shed.
But what was to be week of celebration ended in tears. That was when his father’s assistant (vernacularly known as kili), decided to make a quick buck and took the vehicle without his permission. The truck plunged into a gorge, killing the assistant and shattering the vehicle on the eve of the wedding.
“As such we had just enough to sustain ourselves, now the accident meant that my father was not only out of job but in huge debt. The vehicle belonged to a landlord there. Add to that, the money for the wedding. We were in deep emotional turmoil,” recollects Gururaja.
Teenager Gururaja then decided to ease his father’s burden by forsaking the sport and realigning his priorities to fetch a government job at the earliest. Straightaway, after he reached college, he explained his situation to coach Rajendra Prasad, who then comforted with words that still ring in his ears when he’s is lifting twice or thrice his body weight in a competition.
“He told me that a champion is not always self-made, but made by the society, and even if he has to sell his property, he will support him. He called everybody in the gym, narrated my story and requested to pool in money for me,” he says.
So they took turns to buy him stuff, according to his needs. “Among them was a boy from Bangalore, who was relatively well off. He used to provide money for food supplements,” he says. Back home, a few of his father’s friends funded him to buy a second-hand auto-rickshaw. Gururaja’s elder brothers began to shoulder more responsibility, and began to manage enough money to slowly start paying off their debts. And his dreams began to blossom.
Meet Udupi pickup truck driver’s son who won India’s 1st medal at 2018 Commonwealth Games