Arunachal teen Bengia Tani overcomes grief to lift gold at Khelo India Games

Needing to lift 147kg in his final clean and jerk attempt for gold in the boys’ 67 kg category at the Khelo India Games in Panchkula, 17-year-old Bengia Tani made a sign pointing to the sky and touching his heart.

The teenager had not been home – Kurung Kimey village in Arunachal Pradesh – after the death of his father in October last year. When he called up his mother after securing the gold with a lift of 149kg and a total mark of 264kg, Tani said the medal will be kept near his father’s photograph.

“My father always wanted me to make him, our village and country proud and missing his funeral to practise the sport which he wanted me to excel in was a tough decision,” an emotional Tani told The Indian Express.

The second child out of five children, Tani would often help his father on their half-acre farmland. It was only during a talent scouting camp by Army Ordnance Centre, Secunderabad that he was selected for trials in 2016. “My parents arranged Rs 35,000 from relatives and friends for my expenses for the trials. At that time, I did not know anything about weightlifting and just wanted my family not to worry about me. While my training is supported by the Indian Army, my mother has to sell beads and glass beads in nearby villages to support the family after my father’s death,” says the cadet scout who will appear in a final test and physical exam for his entry in the Indian Army once he turns 18.

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With national record holder S Devakumar as one of the coaches at the centre, Tani would make rapid strides at the junior level. A sixth-place finish at the 2019 junior nationals, where he lifted a total of 226 Kg in the 61kg category was followed by a gold with a total lift of 241kg at Patiala last year and a bronze (248kg) in 67kg in Bhubaneswar this March.

Tani will return to Secunderabad after the Games and will be in contention for a spot for the Asian Junior Weightlifting Championship in Uzbekistan next year. He plans to undertake the 12-hour bus journey from Itanagar to his village with the gold medal and a possible international medal and an appointment letter from the Indian Army.

“My mother calls me every day to tell me that they are waiting for me.”

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