Birmingham's Shergill aims for Commonwealth glory on home soil

·4-min read
Jaswant Shergill is preparing for his latest shot at Commonwealth Games glory (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Jaswant Shergill is preparing for his latest shot at Commonwealth Games glory (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

JASWANT Shergill is an English teacher by day but it’s the lessons he’s taken on board himself that have given him the opportunity to dazzle a home crowd this summer.

Having made his Team England bow at Glasgow 2014, a wrist injury denied Shergill a trip to the Gold Coast four years later.

History looked like repeating itself when the weightlifter sat out the bulk of 2021 with a knee problem.

But the once-in-a-lifetime prospect of starring at a Commonwealth Games in the city he has always called home proved all the motivation the 29-year-old needed to prevail in a hard-fought selection process and make his dream a reality.

“The reason I was successful this time despite the setbacks was because of the lessons I learned from failing to qualify for the Gold Coast,” he said.

“I made a lot of mistakes trying to get back into shape, with the pressure of the qualifying window. I rushed my training, I didn’t let my injury heal, I didn’t have a support network around me and I tried to do it all myself.

“This time, I made sure I was healthy, gradually implemented training back into my routine and had a good support network around me.

“Living and growing up in Birmingham added a sense of sentimentality and getting to compete at home just made it that much more motivating to make sure I qualified.”

With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Shergill hopes sharing his story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.

Shergill grew up in Handsworth, to the north-east of the city centre, and began his weightlifting odyssey aged 12 at Oldbury Academy.

Now training at the MSC Performance gym in the Jewellery Quarter and teaching in nearby Walsall, Shergill has had an eyewitness view of the second city’s preparation for this summer’s showpiece and hopes it will act as the catalyst for more local youngsters to get involved in his sport.

“In the past, Birmingham and the Midlands has had a strong presence in weightlifting but not so much recently,” he said.

“Seeing successful local people on such a big platform will hopefully inspire people to do the things they are curious about.

“To put yourself in that vulnerable position where you’re a beginner at something takes strength, but I want people to try things their heart is yearning for.

“Hopefully having this spotlight should encourage participation in Birmingham, which I’d love to see.”

This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured his place on the squad, Shergill is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in his home country.

And few will be as well supported by Shergill in the stands, with the hometown hero - who will compete in the 67kg category - hoping to take the same mindset that made him a surprise winner at the 2019 UK Championships into the event and make those watching him proud.

“My family have tickets and the people who I train with at the gym put their faith in me,” he said.

“They got their tickets before I qualified, as they always reminded me in training: ‘You’d better qualify, or I’ll have to sell these tickets!’.

“I’m not thinking about medals. I went into the [2019] British Championships as an underdog and I like having that chip on my shoulder, feeling I have something to prove.

“I like to compete like I’m number one but train like I’m number two. I’m focused on winning each training session, each day, one day at a time – and hopefully that could amount to something big for me.”

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