Former refugee Cyrille Tchatchet’s Commonwealth medal dream ended in body cramps


After an agonizing journey that included sleeping on the road and suicidal thoughts, former refugee Cyrille Tchatchet’s dream of winning a Commonwealth Games medal for England ended with cramps all over her body.

It was eight years since Tchatchet last competed at these Games, then in the colors of his native Cameroon, before sneaking away from Glasgow in 2014 with just a pair of shoes and a weightlifting belt.

Thus began the long process of Tchatchet’s journey to British citizenship, when his asylum application was approved in 2016 and full citizenship was only approved earlier this year.

That latest move allowed the 27-year-old to compete for England in Birmingham – the city he has made his home – but there was no happy ending as cramps surfaced right at the start of the men’s 96kg final.

Tchatchet still managed to snag 158kg to leave him in the silver medal position at half-time, but he collapsed after his first clean and jerky attempt and two more errors prevented him from recording a final total.

“The first time he went to the bar, he started to cramp up,” said England weightlifting team leader Stuart Martin, while Tchatchet stood backstage, too distraught to speak to waiting reporters.

“He drank some soda water, ate some sugary candy and we tried to help him massage his mouth.

Cyrille Tchatchet competes in the clean and jerk discipline after suffering cramps throughout his body (Peter Byrne/PA)

(PA wire)

“We relaxed him as best we could and got him into the most comfortable position, but the same thing happened again on the next two snaps and you saw the rest.

“I’ve never seen anyone walk out there in a cramped and clean 300 pounds all over their body – and I hope I never will again.”

When Tchatchet left his Glasgow hotel room eight years ago, fearing for his safety should he return to Cameroon, his future looked bleak.

He slept poorly, suffered from depression, and made his way to a notorious suicide site in south-east England, where he was “sure” he would have jumped had he not seen a sign for the Samaritans.

After being arrested and initially taken to an immigration center he has managed to make a living in Birmingham where he works as a senior psychiatrist in an NHS facility.

It’s that steadfastness, Martin believes, that will allow Tchatchet – who finished tenth as a representative of the refugee team at last year’s Tokyo Olympics – to bounce back from the blow.

He said: “What Cyrille has been through since arriving in the UK has been awful. Any refugee will tell you that this is a long process and requires a lot of patience.

I’ve never seen anyone walk out there with a cramped whole body and a clean 300 pounds

England weightlifting team leader Stuart Martin

“For him, looking at this board (halfway) is absolutely galling to miss a silver medal.

“But we were absolutely privileged to have him on this team.

“He’s every bit as English as everyone on this team and maybe in four years’ time in Victoria he’ll have the opportunity to win the medal he wanted today.”

Samoa’s Don Opelege dominated the event, winning gold with a new games record total of 381kg, while Vikas Thakur of India took silver and Taniela Ranibogi of Fiji took bronze.

England’s Deborah Alawode previously finished fourth in the women’s 76kg final, won by Canada’s Maya Laylor. Nigeria’s Taiwo Liadi and Naurus Maximina Uepa took silver and bronze respectively. Former refugee Cyrille Tchatchet’s Commonwealth medal dream ended in body cramps

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