How weightlifter Jhilli, a girl from tribal origins in Odisha, earned India a historic feat after 26 years
The Gold at the Asian Championships is just the start for weightlifter Jhilli Dalabehera, who has a long road to pursue.
Former World Junior Bronze Medallist, Jhilli Dalabehera recently won the gold medal at the ongoing Asian Weightlifting Championships. She did this by lifting a combined weight of 69 kg in the snatch category and 88kg in the clean and jerk thereby getting to the first position with a total of 157 kg. It was truly a historic moment for her and the entire nation despite the fact that this will not have a say in her qualification for the Olympics given that 45 kg is not a recognised weight category. She became the only Indian weightlifter to win gold in Asian Championships after Kunjarani Devi and Karnam Maleshwari, a feat which was achieved 26 years ago in 1995.
What is more interesting, however, is the background of Jhilli Dalabehera. The 22-year-old hails from the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. She is a product of the Bhubaneshwar Sports Hostel and has in her short career already accumulated a plethora of medals both at the National and International level. In 2019, she was conferred with the Eklabya Award for excellence in sports instituted by the Indian Metals Public Charitable Trust. This was in recognition of her achievements between the years 2017 and 2019 when she won two gold medals, three silver and one bronze (IWF World Championships) in various international weightlifting events.
Highlighting her achievements time and again will be fruitless if it not for what they really mean. By bringing glory to the nation against all odds, Jhilli Dalabehera has paved the way for other tribal girls and boys like her to engage in sporting activity. Moreover, she has inadvertently highlighted the need for providing adequate sports facilities to the marginalised communities or individuals around the country. Her case is one that does not stop at winning medals. Rather, it continues on till making an impact on the lives of like-minded, youngsters around her who wish to pursue any sport in their lives, in particular weightlifting.
The Gold at the Asian Championships is just the start for her. It is only a matter of time before a sportsperson like Jhilli Dalabehera begins to bring laurels for India at events like the Olympics and Senior World Championships.