Weightlifting, arguably the toughest of the Olympic sports, entered the drawing rooms of at least some Indian houses late last year. The reason? This very simple looking discipline gave India her only World Champion of 2017 through the diminutive Mirabai Chanu.
Mirabai who had become a household name post Rio Olympics too, albeit for the wrong reasons (failed all 3 Clean & jerk attempts), more than exorcised the ghosts that she must have carried for a year at the Anaheim World Championships.
Her total of 194 kg at these Championships not only fetched her the World title but also the numero uno ranking for 2017. In the process she smashed the Indian national records in Snatch, Clean & Jerk & the Total.
The next best Commonwealth athlete was a healthy 25kg below her. Competition might be slightly low key in the post Olympic year but no credit should be taken away from Mirabai. Come Gold Coast it is difficult to visualize anybody coming near this pocket dynamo from Manipur.
The other Chanu, Sanjitha the defending Champion in the 48 kg category has moved to 53kg category. Her 195kg lift at the Commonwealth Championships at Gold Coast last year won her that title over the veteran from Papua New Guinea Dika Toua who was a good 9kg behind the Indian.
Sanjitha had a substantial let down at the World Championships later totaling only 177kg. This could be make it tighter for the Indian as the Nigerian in the mix, Fatima Yakubu, could make things unpredictable.
Saraswati Rout (58kg) & Vandana Gupta (63kg) will have their plate full as the Canadians Tali Darsigny and Charron Maude are light years ahead of the two Indians and in fact the rest of the competition too. Throw in Sean Lee from Australia and things get really tough for Vandana in her weight category.
The Canadian Charron Maude (63 kg) will face her stiffest challenge from the English woman Zoe Davies who really entertained the Scottish crowd in the 2014 Games on her way to the 58kg title.
Point to note: Vandana Gupta totaled 197kg at Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships. At Indian nationals in January this year, Rakhi Halder lifted 230kg.
Representing India at 69kg is the talented Punam Yadav who like Mirabai Chanu and Sanjitha Chanu has been lifting lifetime bests over the last few months on the big stage.
Her 218kg total lift at the 2017 Worlds ranks the best amongst the participating athletes with England’s Sarah Davies snapping at her heels with 212 kg. Should be competitive between the two.
The upper 3 categories really have very little to hope for India as the massive lifters from the islands of Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea should really be making their presence felt.
Overall India should garner 5 medals with the 2 girls from Manipur all set for the Yellow Metal.