India's Deepak Lather won bronze in the men's 69 kg category on the second day of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He lifted a total of 295 kg (136 kg in snatch and 159 kg in clean and jerk) to take India's medal tally to four at the Gold Coast.
Lather's third attempt in snatch - of a 138 kg lift - was unsuccessful, because of which he stood second in the points table behind Sri Lanka's Indika C. Dissanayake Mudiyanselage. In clean and jerk, Lather attempted a lift of 159 kg in his second attempt -- four kilos more than his first -- which was successful, and also gave him a new personal best. His previous best was 157 kg.
Lather had been marked out for success very early in his career. He was only 15-years old when he first set a national record. Lather, who set the still unbroken record for snatch in the men's 62kg at 126kg, remains the youngest Indian weightlifter to hold a national record. That achievement, in the last week of 2015, was only the latest in a series of firsts.
Earlier in September, he became the youngest Indian to compete in the World Championships. A month before that, he had - while also competing in the youth (U-17) category - beaten out rivals from the senior category to win the Commonwealth Championships.
"He is undoubtedly going to be one of the stars of Indian weightlifting. There's little doubt that he can win the Commonwealth gold medal," Vijay Sharma, chief national coach had said then.
Now 18, Lather has put on a lot more muscle and has had to move up to the 69kg division. He has managed to carry plenty of his strength with him and as a result, his clean and jerk ability has improved too. At the 2017 Commonwealth Championships, Lather finished third with a total of 295kg. While that third-place finish must rankle, Lather was just a kilo off the total that won the silver medal.
Deepak's father Bijender Lather had raised him in Shadipur, a farming village along Haryana's Rohtak-Jind state highway. While the boy himself expected to farm for mustard and wheat in his family's one acre plot, Bijender says he always knew his son had potential. "He was always quite strong. Even when he was young he would pick up sacks of cut-fodder on his back. Those sacks were as heavy as he was. When he was about nine his mother was feeling tired, so he carried her from the field home," he once said.
Lather though wasn't expected to be a weightlifter. Even when he was selected by the Army for the Army Sports Institute, he was originally training to be a diver. However coaches soon realized the youngsters potential and added him to the weightlifting program. The results have, by any measure, been a success.