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Asian Games

Asian Games medal eludes Mirabai Chanu, but brave 4th-place finish reveals her inhuman strength

Mirabai Chanu has won medals at every tournament in her career - except at the Asian Games. A tragic warm-up injury derailed her campaign on Saturday, but she pulled off an inhuman effort to overcome it and get India as close to a weightlifting medal as we have in 25 years.

Asian Games medal eludes Mirabai Chanu, but brave 4th-place finish reveals her inhuman strength

Mirabai Chanu in action at the Hangzhou Asian Games (AGNS)


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 30 Sep 2023 9:32 PM GMT

Hangzhou: Mirabai Chanu defied the pain and the toughest possible competitive field in the world to earn a 4th-place finish at the Asian Games on Saturday, but her dream of winning an Asiad medal - the only medal missing from her trophy cabinet - remained tantalisingly out of reach.

"This was my dream. I had to miss the last Asian Games due to a back injury in 2018. Maybe an Asian Games medal is not in my fate," Mirabai told The Bridge moments after limping out after the 49kg women's weightlifting final at the Xiaoshan Sports Stadium.

Mirabai, an Olympic medallist, and a former world, Asian, and Commonwealth Games champion, has won medals in almost every major weightlifting competition - except the Asiad. She had missed the Jakarta 2018 edition due to an injury.

She had also skipped lifting at the World Weightlifting Championships in Saudi Arabia earlier this month because she wanted to focus on an Asian Games medal.

But tragedy strikes at the most inopportune times.

Mirabai suffered an injury of the iliotibial tract on her thigh while warming up for the final. With her pelvic stabilisation and posture control thrown completely out of order, there should have been no way she should have even reached close to medal contention.

"My earlier injury did not bother me here. While warming up for snatch, I suffered a deep-seated injury. I tried to live up to what I had prepared for, but the pain did not let me," Mirabai said.

Mirabai was ranked 6th after the snatch round after she managed to lift 83kg on her first attempt but failed to lift 86 kg twice. Her aim had been to reach 90kg in snatch.

Her coach Vijay Sharma advised her to pull out, saying that she should let go of her medal hopes at the Asian Games to not worsen her injury.

But Mirabai, as the world knows, is made of sterner stuff.

"I had this josh (energy) from inside telling me I had to continue. So I put on tapes on my thighs and came out for the clean and jerk. I believed that if I gave it my entire strength, I could do it," she said.

A show of inhuman mental strength in C&J

It was announced that Mirabai would start with a 105kg lift in clean and jerk but she raised it to 108kg to give her opponents and the packed hall a surprise. Snatch might not have gone to plan, but it was clear she would leave it all out there in her search for a medal.

After one successful lift, she went straight for the kill. From 108kg, she made a jump straight to 117kg - an unthinkable jump.

"I always knew I would have to give it my all to bring a medal for India at the Asian Games, and I wanted to leave everything out there. For the bronze medal, I had to lift 117kg in clean and jerk because my snatch lifts had not come off. I really wanted a medal," Mirabai said, adding that she was sorry to the nation for not living up to their hopes.

Mirabai Chanu fails to lift 117kg in clean and jerk - an attempt she had no business making.

An Asian Games medal in weightlifting has remained elusive for the last quarter of a century for India because of the high level of competition within Asia. The last weightlifting medal came as far back as 25 years ago when Karnam Malleswari won a silver medal in 1998.

Mirabai's personal best is 205 kg, but she has struggled to go beyond the 200 kg mark since the Tokyo Olympics. She finished with a total of 191 kg in the final on Saturday. North Korea and China were far ahead of her, but it was the Thai lifter, who lifted a total of 199 kg, who was the benefactor of the bronze medal as a result of Mirabai's injury.

At the 2018 Asian Games, India's best finish had been a 5th-place finish by Ajay Singh. Mirabai's 4th-place finish, therefore, is almost assured to be an improvement from last time.

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