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Jul 30, 2012 at 10:37am IST

Sports reform Odisha's crime capital into 'Game City'

Berhampur (Odisha): Ravi Kumar is no stranger in our country. This 24-year-old weightlifter had won the coveted Gold Medal at Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010. An Arjuna awardee, he is an inspiration to many young individuals. But life was not a bed of roses for Ravi. He lost his father when he was 8 years old. In the hope of securing a stable life for her son, Ravi's mother sent him to Beer Hanuman Club. It was here Ravi realised his true potential and a star weightlifter was born.

Suryakanta, Ravi's mother, says, "After he passed class tenth, if I would not have sent him to Beer Hanuman club, then he would have definitely become a spoilt boy. In the club his talent got proper guidance and motivation to excel."

Like Ravi, 21-year-old Susant Sahu also found his calling at the Beer Hanuman Club. A bronze medal winner at the Junior Common Wealth game, Sushant came from an underprivileged background and for him, weightlifting, initially, was the means to a better, secured life.

"My family is so poor that I do not have money to buy supplement food necessary for weight lifting. But I am sure one day weightlifting would change the future of me and my family," says Susant Sahu.

Established in 1940, the Beer Hanuman Club started out as a local gym encouraging body-building. However, over the past decade, the club has actively trained aspiring weightlifters, producing at least a dozen International Weight Lifting Champions and over 50 National Champions including two Arjuna Award winners.

Naryan Sahu, Secretary, Beer Hanuman Club, says "Earlier youths of the city were only interested to build their body and mostly indulged in anti social activities. But now they say we want to learn weightlifting and change our lives."

Low on funding, the club is primarily supported and managed by local sports enthusiasts, weaving a grand success story that many want to emulate. Such has been the influence of the club that Berhampur is now known as the Iron Game City, quite a departure from the infamous 'crime capital' tag it once had acquired.

The glory of the Beer Hanuman Club is not merely about winning medals and building bodies. It's more about guiding the energy of the youth in the right direction.