Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.


From the land of warriors, Shubham Todkar goes to the World

Because Shubham Todkar's family had nothing to give him, a village of former warriors pooled in to fund his weightlifting dreams. On Monday, Shubham makes his debut on the world stage, at the 2023 Weightlifting World C'ships.

From the land of warriors, Shubham Todkar goes to the World

Pritish Raj

Published: 4 Sep 2023 2:27 PM GMT

Vadgoan Maval, Maharashtra: It was a busy day at the Todkar household in the quiet town of Vadgoan Maval near Pune as the parents of weightlifter Shubham Todkar were constantly on the phone, thanking everyone for their wishes.

On 13 July 2023, when India's Weightlifting World Championships squad was announced, the likes of Mirabai Chanu, Achinta Sheuli, and Bindyarani Devi were expected to be included, but the inclusion of Shubham Todkar in men's 61kg category came as a surprise - not only to the sporting community but also to his parents. On Monday night, he will make his debut on the world stage.

"All of us are surprised, Shubham was doing well but we never thought he would be going to World Championships," Shubham's father Tanaji Todkar told The Bridge.

Shubham was competing in the Commonwealth Championships in Noida when the news came to him. The weightlifter celebrated it with a gold medal in the tournament.

Even as Shubham celebrated his call-up with his fellow lifters in Noida, the euphoria continued at home. It was an emotional moment for the Todkar household that had been in the making for the past decade.

"I was a lifter in my time but due to financial constraints, I never moved beyond the state level. We have sacrificed everything in our pursuit to make Shubham an international-level athlete," said Tanaji.

Vadgaon Maval - The Land of Warriors

Often it is said that battlefields give birth to warriors. Battles are a rarity in the modern-day context, but warriors still do exist in different walks of life.

Born on the land that had been the battlefield of the first Anglo-Maratha War, known as the 'Battle of Wadgaon', the Todkars have been no less than warriors in battling financial conditions to take up a sport like a weightlifting.

"We take pride in coming from Vadgaon as this is the place where Mahadji Shinde defeated the Britishers," Tanaji beamed with pride.

Historical pride aside, it wasn't easy for the family to fund Shubham's sporting career with the meagre income from Tanaji's gym sessions and Shubham's mother's tailoring business.

"We have nothing to give to Shubham. I never achieved anything in sports because I had no money. We have been living in this house for the past 40 years," Tanaji said.

The front of the house where Shubham grew up (left) and the entrance of one bedroom-cum-kitchen (right). (PritishRaj/TheBridge)

It is quite evident from the two-room house - where one room acts as bedroom-cum-kitchen and the other one as an office for his mother - that Shubham has seen some tough times.

"I stitch clothes for a living and I have given everything to him. His training was very important for us. We had even stayed hungry at times to give him nutrition," Shubham's mother said as a drop of tear fell from her eyes.

A little later though, her eyes lit up as she opened the cabinet to show the number of medals her son has won in the past 10 years.

Medals and Trophies won by Shubham at the District, State, and National levels in the past five years. (PritishRaj/TheBridge)

"People have ridiculed us for living in one home for four decades. Some people will come and make fun of us saying 'Bete ka job lag gaya fir bhi idhar hi reh rahe ho' (You are still living here after your son's job)," Tanaji said.

Shubham has been funding himself since getting a job with Railways, and the financial condition of the family has also improved.

Contemplated quitting during Covid, Shubham targets history at WC

The road from Vadgaon Maval to the World Championships has been a tough and bumpy one for Shubham. From battling financial conditions to injuries and a very tough bout of Covid-19, Shubham had thought of quitting the sport multiple times.

"Nothing was happening right for me due to injuries. I was very close to quitting the sport. I thought I would focus on my job as I come from a middle-class family," said Shubham.

"It was my childhood coach Vikram Singh Deshmukh who counseled me and my parents and also asked me to keep at it. I hadn't imagined that World Championships would be my stage one day though," he said.

Most sporting stories have multiple side characters who play small but important roles. In Shubham's story, those characters are his friends, coaches, and a local MLA.

"When we were unable to fund Shubham's journey, a lot of support came to us in many ways. His coaches Vikram Singh Deshmukh (childhood coach) and P Rangaswamy (Railways coach) have mentored him like their own child," said Tanaji.

"Our local MLA Sunil Shelke has helped us and his friends have always contributed with small amounts of money to make sure that he never misses out on tournaments," he added.

Tanaji Todkar and Vaishali Todkar- Parents of national champion Shubham Todkar. (PritishRaj/TheBridge)

Shubham credits his parents, his mother in particular, for empowering him to reach this level.

"I will be performing at one of the biggest stages in the world, and the main reason is my parents. My mother, in particular, has done everything possible to make sure I get everything," said Shubham.

"She has worked tirelessly to make sure that I get ample nutrition because weightlifting is about strength and nutrition is an important part of it," he added further.

Making his debut at the Weightlifting World Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Shubham is looking to do his best and increase his chances for the Olympics.

"At the moment, I am feeling very good and I want to do my best at the World Championships. It is a big opportunity for me to perform at the top level and I want to give my best," Shubham said.

Next Story