Everyone in Manipur is waiting for Mirabai Chanu to win a medal — Weightlifter Sanjita Chanu
In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, weightlifter Sanjita Chanu said that everyone is expecting a medal from Mirabai Chanu at Tokyo Olympics
In the year 2000 Karnam Malleswari became the first Indian female to win an Olympic medal in Sydney by winning a bronze medal in the 69 Kg weight category. This was also India's maiden medal in weightlifting and since then the country has been waiting for an Olympics medal in this sport.
But the way Saikhom Mirabai Chanu of India has performed over the years it seems the wait for an Olympic medal in weightlifting is going to be over. The Khel Ratna awardee currently holds the world record in Clean and Jerk in the women's 49 Kg category.
She lifted 119 Kg in the Asian Championship in April 2021 to clinch a gold medal in the section and an overall bronze. This performance of her has raised the expectations of the entire country and her state-mate weightlifter Sanjita Chanu, who is herself a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
"I think she can bring home a medal because recently during the Asian Championship she performed really well. She lifted 119 this time her medal will certainly come in the Olympics," said Sanjita Chanu in an exclusive chat with The Bridge.
The 26-year old's superlative performance in the clean and jerk has helped her achieve a total of 205 Kg as she could successfully lift only 86 Kg in Snatch and a staggering 119 Kg in Clean & Jerk.
The World Championship and Commonwealth Games champion Mirabai admits that she is not able to lift weight in snatch due to her shoulder injury. But she has been working on this weakness with a former weightlifter turned physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coach Dr. Aaron Horschig.
Looking towards her as a big medal hope Sanjita Chanu feels that every weightlifter has strengths and weaknesses but her weakness is not that big a concern.
"It happens that someone's strength is snatch while someone's clean and jerk is strong. Her snatch is not very good but it is still not bad but Clean & Jerk is strong. Two-three lifts in clean and jerk can win you a medal." explained weightlifter Sanjita Chanu to The Bridge.
The current generation has only heard about the 2000 Sydney Olympics medallist in weightlifting Karnam Malleswari but has not seen her since it happened more than 2 decades ago. Therefore, Mirabai Chanu needs to take that legacy forward and inspire the youth to take up weightlifting as a sport.
With her recent performance in Asian Championship where she lifted 205 Kg was third-best behind two Chinese Hou Zhihui who lifted 213 Kg and Jiang Huihua who lifted 207 Kg. But one country cannot send more than one weightlifter for the Olympics so only Hou Zhihui will be participating making things easier for the lone Indian weightlifter.
North Korea's Ri Song Gum absence with her country pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics makes things more favourable for the Padma Shree awardee.
"This time I think she can certainly win a medal. Her medal will be a huge motivation if she wins. Looking at such players others get inspired as they also raise the expectation. Her medal will encourage youngsters to pick up the sport and play." said Sanjita Chanu.
Mirabai Chanu hails from Imphal in Manipur, a North-Eastern state which is popular for producing champion athletes like Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics medalists like MC Mary Kom, Dingko Singh, N Kunjarani Devi etc. All these heroes have made the country proud and inspired the entire nation to excel in the field of sports.
"Our entire state of Manipur and the whole country would like to wish her 'All the best. I would also wish her to go and win a medal for the country. MC Mary Kom, Mirabai Chanu is the participants of India from Manipur and we will all do well. We are not Manipuris but we are Indians who are going to participate for India in the Olympics and if they win medals then the entire country will be happy. Five to six players from Manipur are representing the country in weightlifting, boxing, men's and women's hockey and they all can win medals. Earlier also players from Manipur have done well from India." expressed Sanjita Chanu who also hails from Manipur.
Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu was undergoing a fifty-day training at St Louis in the USA under the watchful eyes of national coach Vijay Sharma and assistant coach Sandip Kumar which was sanctioned by Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
This was her second stint in the US after undergoing a two-month stint under strength and conditioning coach, Dr. Aaron Horschig in 2020. At such a crucial juncture the only thing that can disturb the focus of Mirabai Chanu is the weight of expectations and how she is going to cope-up with it is the biggest task of her team which comprises her coaches and physiotherapists according to Sanjita Chanu.
"She has got a coach, physiotherapist for her to take care of such things like the pressure of expectations," told Sanjita Chanu to The Bridge.
Mirabai Chanu will enter the weightlifting arena on July 24 with huge expectations of the nation on her shoulders to win a medal and also to prove herself as a big tournament player as she failed to perform in her previous Olympic appearance in Rio Olympics 2016 by failing to lift the weight in any of her three attempts in the clean & jerk section.
A medal for the Manipuri weightlifter would mean a great start to India's campaign in Tokyo Olympics as well as ending a 21-year medal drought in weightlifting for the country in the prestigious quadrennial event.