Rio Olympics 2016: Can Satish Sivalingam bridge the gap with big boys in his category?
Participating in the 77 kg category, Satish lifted a total of 336 kg (151 kg in Snatch, 185 in Clean & Jerk) during the Olympic trials. While this may not have been an in-competition lift, this is his best result after the 339 kg (152 kg in Snatch, 187 in Clean & Jerk) that he lifted at Patiala last year.
Continuing a three-decade-long tradition
Sathish Sivalingam was born on 23 June 1992, at Sathuvachari in Vellore, a place which, deserves the description as the ‘home of weightlifters’.
It was Tamil Selvan (Satish was coached by Selvan from 2010 to 2012) who made this village proud with a silver medal in the Edmonton CWG in 1978. The conditions were not conducive to developing talent at that point. The facilities were minimal and primitive.
But that did not deter the youth in the village. The inspiration from Tamil Selvan’s success was enough to shape a sizeable number of internationals such as G. Devan (Arjuna Awardee), B. Thangamni (silver medallist at the 1981 Commonwealth Championship, Brisbane), Akilan, M. Velu, S. Elambaruthi, K. Bather, K. Palani, Devamani and T. Muthu.
Two others, Adesekar (gold) and V. Murugan (bronze) in 1994 Victoria (Canada) are from this district —Arakonam.
In continuance with this tradition, Satish, emerged on the global scene with a gold medal in the men’s 77kg weightlifting category at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with a total lift of 328 kg. En route to this gold, he broke the then Commonwealth Games record in the Snatch.
As with most of the Indian athletes, Satish was not born in the wealthiest of Indian families. He took up this gruelling sport at the age of 13 and has maintained a strict discipline and diet ever since. Thus the young man kept up with the family’s tradition by eclipsing his father Sivalingam, who himself was a national level gold medalist weightlifter.
What about competition at Rio?
Totally 13 competitors including Satish, will participate at Rio and needless to say, the standard is far superior to the Commonwealth standard.
Let’s look at some numbers.
Satish’s best ever lift of 339 kg at Patiala last year, would have fetched him eight spot at 2013 WC, 11th in 2015 WC and sixth at the London Olympics.
Strong Asian competition
The Chinese who have always sent a lifter in this category over the last four Olympics, have won the title thrice, with defending champion Lu Xiaojun back for another bite of the Gold.
But the depth in the competition is such that, at the last World Championships in 2015, six different nationalities were represented in the medal ceremony for a remarkable men’s 77kg competition. The World Championships awards medals to snatch and Clean/Jerk separately apart from the totals.
Lu Xiaojun from China, the Olympic and Asian Games champion who set the snatch and total world records in the 2013 IWF World Championships, looked set for victory when he took the snatch gold with 175kg. He missed a world record attempt at 177kg, then failed with all three clean & jerks at 201kg. His teammate Su Ying, totaled 355, to finish fifth.
Another strong contender is the former Azerbaijani, Nijat Rahimov who now represents Kazakhstan and is the current World Champion having a total lift of 372 kg.
Armenia is coming with an impressive crop of lifters and Andranik Karapetyan is one of them. Barely out of the junior ranks, lifting in the 360 kg range is no big deal for him.Last year, he became the world junior champion, took bronze in the World and European Championships and showed the world that the big stage holds no fear for him.
His national federation must rate him very high as he has been sent ahead of the very experienced Simon Martirosyan for Rio.
Chatuphum Chinnawong from Thailand has an impressive CV too. Current Asian Games bronze medallist, double Asian championships bronze medallist and an impressive eighth spot with 345 kg at the last worlds, he is an extremely consistent lifter in the 350’s range.
Apart from the 2014 World Championships, this former Youth Olympic silver medallist, rarely has an off day.
But the athlete who has shown considerable improvement is the Egyptian Mohamed Ihab who took silver with his 363 kg total at the last world championships. He had moved into the 77kg category just 6 months ago prior to this World Championships. Ihab had also won silver at the 2014 Worlds, at 69 kg.
Satish will have his hands and legs full at Rio, but this confident young man has overcome great odds to even reach this level having suffered a slip disc injury just 8 months ago at the Houston Worlds. If he has a good day a top 8 finish beckons and that would be a thrust in the right direction as Indian weightlifting seeks to find the glory days of the 1990s and the early 2000s.