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Sanjita Chanu was stoic through the attempts that led her to the 53kg weightlifting gold. Any nervousness she felt showed only in the deep breaths she took. It was only at the podium, after she was medalled and just after the national anthem was over that she smiled and gave out what seemed like half a sigh. In contrast ' and you know there will be contrast ' Mirabai Chanu was a picture of many emotions as she won gold in the 48kg, laughing when the clean and jerk was over, hugging the team officials, speaking affably with Oceania Weightlifting Federation's Paul Coffa. https://twitter.com/TheBridge_IN/status/981783170684080130 Yet both were expected winners. Both had won gold before ' Sanjita at the Glasgow Games and Mirabai at the Anaheim World Championships. Both represented the country which could not ensure that their physic would be present with them. Both are from a state which has produced 18 Arjuna Award winners, the women's football team coach, a star archer, two women boxers who would change the sport for India, more than half of the Under-17 football team and the key players of both the men's and women's senior national team.
Few people on earth can claim to know the rules of a sport as obscure as wushu, fewer still can claim to have played it. In 2006, Bimoljit Singh became the first Indian to win a medal ' a bronze in the Asian Games ' in wushu. In 2010, Sandhyarani Devi won another Asian Games medal ' this time a silver ' in the same sport. Both Bimoljit and Sandhyarani are from Manipur. A report on the Hindustan Times, pegs the state's canny ability to nurture sporting talents on the community effort put in by its small population. The state has a little more than 28 lakh people, but the main reason why sportspersons rise not in isolation but in formidable clusters is that there are more than a thousand sporting clubs in the state. These not only make sure that for every Mary Kom there is a Sarita Devi, but also take care of the state's indigenous sporting rituals. Tournaments of Oolaobi ' a game that finds mention in Meitei mythology ' fit between weightlifting trainings. Contact sports like Yubi lakpi are still played with all enthusiasm, by the very people who might be aiming for an Olympic berth in a sport like judo or boxing. The game of Mukna Kangjei ' a demanding offshoot of hockey that involves wrestling ' is as popular as football. The remarkable variety in Manipur's sporting culture reflects in the persona of its top sportspersons who seldom bat an eyelid when it comes to shifting their mettle to make their game better. Sanjita Chanu switched to 53 kg from the earlier 48 kg in which she won gold four years ago. Mirabai Chanu bounced back after a shock humiliation at the Rio Olympics. The state also gives us some of the most colourful players in Indian sports, who make the task of following a sport ever so exciting. Who can forget Sarita Devi's steadfast refusal of a bronze after her 2014 Asian Games defeat ' believed by many to be a case of unjust pronouncement. Who can forget Bembem Devi on the sidelines of the Eastern Sporting Union's matches through the inaugural women's I-League ' which the legendary footballer's girls won. In the first two days of the Commonwealth Games at Australia's Gold Coast, India won two gold medals. Both were won by women from Manipur, the state which got it right in sports. Also Read: Indian weightlifters are bringing medals but at what cost?
Weightlifters, boxers and football players are, however, not Manipur's only sources of sporting glory.