Once Nooh Dastagir Butt won Pakistan’s first gold medal at this edition of the Commonwealth Games, none other than Indian superstar Mirabai Chanu was among the first to extend a congratulations. An Olympic medalist, Chanu has catapulted herself to superstardom and is an icon not only in India but also for weightlifters from the neighboring country. “It was such a proud moment for me when she congratulated me and praised my achievement,” Butt told PTI after winning the gold in the men’s 109+kg category with a record lift of 405kg.
The 24-year-old Pakistani shattered all three Games records — 173 in snatch, 232 in clean and jerk and the total. “We look to Mirabai for inspiration. She showed us that we from the South Asian countries can also win an Olympic medal. We became so proud of her when she won silver at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
Gurdeep Singh won bronze in the same category and Butt considers the Indian one of his close friends.
“We’ve been very good friends for the past seven to eight years. We’ve trained together abroad a few times. We’re always in touch,” Butt told everyone about the bonhomie he shares with his Indian colleagues.
For Butt, it was never an Indo-Pak battle, but an individual challenge to outdo his best.
“It wasn’t like I was competing with an Indian lifter. I just wanted to give my best and win it here,” he said of Gurdeep, who became the first Indian weightlifter to win a CWG medal in the plusweight category.
Two visits to India and memories of a lifetime
But has been to India twice for international events. The first was the Youth Commonwealth Championship in Pune, in 2015 and the following year for the South Asian Games in Guwahati.
“I have been to India twice and the support I have received each time has been unforgettable. I long to go back to India again,” he added.
“I think just Pakistan se jyada fans India mein hai (I think I have more fans in India than at home),” he said jokingly.
Amid mounting cross-border tensions between neighboring countries, the Pakistani contingent had arrived for the South Asian Games in Guwahati-Shillong in 2016, only to “feel at home” “But when I was in Guwahati, the hotel staff became like my extended family and were in tears when I left. That was the connection in those 10-15 days. They never made me feel like I’m from Pakistan or their enemy.” It’s been six years since that championship and Butt wouldn’t mind going back to India.
“I’m definitely looking forward to visiting again. I’ve never enjoyed another match like I did in India,” he added.
Gymnasium and tailor-made training under father-coach Ghulam
This was Pakistan’s only second gold at CWG in weightlifting. Shuja-Uddin Malik (85 kg) was the country’s only hitchhiker to win the gold (Melbourne 2006).
Judoka Shah Hussain Shah is the only other Pakistani on the CWG podium after winning bronze.
His father-cum-coach Ghulam Dastgir was a former national champion and SAF Games medalist. He has built a gym for his son at their home in Gujranwala, where he trains for hours.
“There were a lot of expectations from me because many of our fellow athletes couldn’t win. The responsibility was on my shoulders to give my country our first gold at CWG,” said Butt, a bronze medalist. “I struggled with a few injuries after 2018 so I couldn’t make it to Tokyo. I’ve worked a lot for this over the past two to three years with my ‘Abbu’ (father in Urdu) and made a comeback.” “My father is my source of inspiration. He was his best hitchhiker during his time. This medal belongs to him,” he signed.
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