20 years after Karnam Malleswari, can India finally win its second Olympic medal in Weightlifting?
Although India currently boasts of a highly talented bunch of lifters, only one of them would be in contention at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics – Saikhom Mirabai Chanu.
The first and last time India won an Olympic medal in the sport of Weightlifting was back in the year 2000 when Karnam Malleswari clinched the bronze medal in women's 69kg weight division at the Sydney Games.
It was a landmark event in Indian sports because not only was it India's first Olympic medal in Weightlifting, but it was also the first time an Indian woman had earned a podium finish at the Olympics. Besides, it was also the country's only medal in an otherwise disappointing campaign at Sydney.
While the entire nation basked in the glory of Karnam Malleswari, it was somewhere expected that this achievement would mark the rise of India as a force to reckon with in the world of Weightlifting. But things have not according to plan since then as the country's wait for their second medal in Weightlifting continues. Although India currently boasts of a highly talented bunch of lifters, only one of them would be in contention at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics – Saikhom Mirabai Chanu.
Hailing from the northeastern state of Manipur, Mirabai Chanu first made headlines when she bagged the silver medal in women's 48kg at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She then qualified for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics but failed to lift in all her three attempts in clean and jerk.
This incident could have left anyone depressed for a long time, but not Mirabai Chanu. She has since risen in stature, winning gold at the 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships and the 2018 Commonwealth Games, besides winning bronze in the 2020 Asian Championships.
Such has been her display over the past few years that she is currently considered to be one of the best in the world and as someone who could challenge the Chinese domination in Weightlifting. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics near, more and more fans and pundits have touted her to be one of the favourites for a podium finish in the women's 49kg weight division.
2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification rules for Weightlifting
Weightlifting has a total of 14 different medal events – 7 each in men and women at Olympics. Each country can enter up to a total of eight lifters – 4 men and 4 women, with one lifter per one weight division. Besides, there also exist a rule which states that if more than 20 lifters from a country are found to have violated doping rules, then that country can enter only two lifters – one each in men and women, while if the doping violations are more than 10 and less than 20, then those countries can enter only 4 lifters in total – two each in men and women.
As India has more than 10 doping violations, the country could have entered four lifters, but only Mirabai Chanu has been able to make it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
2020 Tokyo Olympic Qualification rankings
In the qualification period, which started from 1st November 2018 and was affected by the covid-19 pandemic, Mirabai Chanu competed in a total of six events collecting 4,133.61 points with the best lift of 205kg combined.
These performances mean that Indian stands fourth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Qualification rankings in the 49kg weight division. The ones leading the division are China's Hou Zhihui and Jiang Huihua with a best of 213kg and 212kg respectively during the qualification period, while Ri Song Gum of North Korea stands third with a best lift of 209kg.
This should naturally mean that Mirabai Chanu would enter the Tokyo Olympics as the fourth seed, but only that it is not how it's going to be.
Who are Mirabai Chanu's challengers at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
First and foremost, North Korea had announced their decision of withdrawing from the Olympics back in April due to covid-19 related concerns. This means that Song Gum would not be in contention at Tokyo, pushing the 26-year-old Indian as the third seed.
Also, remember the rule which states each country can enter only one lifter per weight division? This means that only one of Hou Zhihui or Jiang Huihua will be competing at the Tokyo Olympics, further making it easy for Mirabai Chanu. On the other hand, USA's Delacruz Jourdan Elizabeth, who has a best of 200kg, will be the other lifter in contention for a podium finish, while the next best is Dominican Republic's Piron Candelario Elizabeth, who has lifted 193kg during the qualification period.
In essence, the road to a podium finish seems rather easy for Mirabai Chanu and India. The only real threats she would have to ward off in her way would be either of Hou Zhinui or Jiang Huihua and the American Elizabeth.