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As Tokyo 2020 gets closer, India’s weightlifting squad spearheaded by the diminutive former world champion Mirabai Chanu will lock horns with some of the best weightlifters, not just from Asia but from the world, to qualify for the Summer Olympics. The Asian Weightlifting Championships is one of IWF’s designated six competitions which the lifters have to participate in, during the 18-month long qualification period from November 1, 2018 to April 1, 2020. The events are categorised into gold, silver, and bronze standard depending on the level of competition.
The recently shuffled weight categories present new challenges to the lifters and qualifications depend on individual performances at events rather than aggregated team results. This extremely exhausting qualification process spread over one and a half years should lead to substantially lesser doping offences.
The four best results out of the six that a lifter participates in, will be considered for ranking. The Continental and World Championships are considered as gold standard.
Restricted slots for IndiaFacing doping violations in the 10-19 category, from 2008 Beijing Olympics up until April 19, 2020, India can send only four lifters (two male and two female). The maximum participation for any country is 8, distributed equally across both genders. India’s medal prospects in any weightlifting competition starts with the ever smiling lady from the North East, Mirabai Chanu. A former World Champion from the 2017 edition, Chanu blitzed the opposition at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and looked set for a podium finish at the Jakarta Asian Games, but a mysterious back illness laid her low for rest of the year. A chance to rack up qualification points at Ashgabat World Championships, the first of the Tokyo qualification events was also lost. Chanu laid to rest much of her injury fears by clinching gold at the Egat Cup in Thailand with a 192 kg lift, just 4 kg short of her personal best, registered at the 2017 World Championships. The Asian Championship is one of the qualifying events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With the Thai girls out the picture, the two Chinese lifters - Zhang Rong and Hou Zhihui, will be the toughest opponents. Chanu’s starting weight of 200 kg comes third to the 205 kg and 210 kg weights of the two Chinese lifters. The North Korean Ri Song and the Vietnamese Thi Quyen are not far behind the Indian. Also Read: Mirabai Chanu wins gold in first meet after injury Jhili Dalabehera in the 45 kg category and Swati Singh in 59 kg can use this completion for experience, but India’s national champion at 63 kg, Rakhi Halder, now at 64 kg will look to overcome her below par performance at Ashgabat to rack up some useful qualification points. With only two slots available for the Indian women lifters, Rakhi could be on the plane to Tokyo, but for that to happen, she needs bring her December 2017 National Championship form of 230 kg back.
Indian men make up the numbersWith or without Sathish Sivalingam, the first name that comes to mind in Indian men's weightlifting is that of the very young, but super confident Jeremy Lalrinnunga. Only 16 years old, the reigning Youth Olympic champion has shown tremendous temperament in short foray at the highest level. The beast from India’s East has transitioned from World Youth silver medallist in 2016, to Commonwealth junior champion first and then to Youth Olympics Games champion in 2018. India's first Youth Olympics gold medalist Jeremy Lalrinnunga already has his sights set on Tokyo 2020
Ajay Singh will be India's representative at 81 kg. Vikas Thakur (96 kg) was quite brilliant at the Egat Cup in Thailand totalling his personal best of 353 kg but like most other lifters from India, he too is far away from the medal bracket. Achanta Sheuli (73 kg), Pardeep Singh (102kg) and Gurdeep Singh (+109 kg) form rest of the contingent. More than medals, Indian male lifters would be looking to better or come close to career best performances.
In the process, Jeremy has increased bodyweight from 56 kg to 67 kg. The weights lifted by him have moved from 235 kg to 288 kg during this period. Quite phenomenal.