One of the stars of Indian weightlifting, Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu‘s rise to the top of her sport is a saga of grit and determination against great odds.
Hailing from remote Umathel Kakching village in Kakching district of Manipur, Sanjita took to weightlifting in 2006, drawing inspiration from her idol and multiple World Championships medallist and fellow Manipuri Kunjarani Devi.
But her path was always a difficult one as the 24-year-old was dogged by poverty and lack of facilities throughout her growing-up years.
With five children to look after, Sanjita’s parents were hard pressed to meet all her expenses from their meagre resources.
But despite all their hardships, K. Tekon Leima and Khumukcham Lukhoi were determined to provide the diet and other facilities to enable their daughter to pursue her dreams.
Her mother Leima said she used to work hard from morning to night to meet Sanjita’s needs and also encouraged her to push harder during training.
“Being a poor family, we could hardly afford nutritious food for the sports girl. Time and again she asked me whether she should give up her first love of sports. But I always replied that she should continue doing the exercises. I ran from pillar to post to provide her food and other items for her exercise,” Leima said.
Their efforts bore fruit as Sanjita gradually started winning laurels at junior tournaments and quickly climbed her way into the senior ranks. But the hardhips continued even after Sanjita sealed a spot in the India squad. She was the victim of official apathy as well.
The Manipur government offered her the post of a police constable after she won gold in the women’s 48 kg category at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but the family regarded this as an affront.
Tekon said she exhorted Sanjita to reply to the perceived slight in the best way possible — winning more medals at domestic and international tournaments. “Salaries of Sanjita and her father were not enough to meet all the expenses,” she said.
The combined sacrifice of the Khumukcham family bore fruit on Friday when the Manipur star won her second Commonwealth Games gold in the Australian city of Gold Coast.
Her father, Khumukcham Lukhoi, said that he cannot find words to express his happiness. Both parents want the state government to provide her with a suitable job so she can live and train in Manipur.
“Since she is a girl, we would like that the government provides her a suitable job in Manipur. In such a situation she could be with the family members and at the same time could bring laurels from India and abroad,” they said.
Sanjita’s success has sparked celebrations in the Kakwa locality near Imphal where the family currently resides.
A large number people from the neighbourhood had assembled at their modest tin roofed mud house to celebrate Sanjita’s victory. Many revellers said that the government should provide her a suitable job keeping her track record in mind.