As the anticipation for Tokyo 2020 Olympics heats up, India is paving its way for a spectacular show in the sport of weightlifting and leading from the front is Manipur’s pocket-sized dynamite Saikhom Mirabai Chanu. The Imphal lass is gradually making her progress aiming for an Olympic-podium standard lift.
In yet another magnificent feat, Mirabai bettered her own national record of 201 kg to 203 kg at the Senior Nationals on Tuesday. The year 2019 shaped up as the formative year for Mirabai’s Tokyo 2020 campaign when she recovered fully from her injury to lift a total of 201kg during the World Championship in September.
Mirabai now aims to stay injury-free in the build-up to the final round of the Olympic qualifications -Asian Championships in Nur-Sultan from 16 to 25 April, where she targets to lift a personal best of 210 kg.
To put things into perspective, had this been the Rio Olympics 2016, Mirabai’s best of 203 kg would have fetched her a gold medal in the 48kg event, where the gold medallist lifted a weight of 200kg (92 + 108). In the 2012 London Olympics, a 205kg lift won the gold medal, while the silver medallist lifted a total of 197kg.
After having lifted the 203 kg at the Nationals, Mirabai, who was elated with her feat, told The Bridge, Mirabai Chanu is extremely happy with the score she made today at the national championship. After having set new naitonal record with 203 kg in her category, Mirabai said, “The key reason behind my satisfaction is that I have been able to cross 200 kg barrier and my preparation is going on in the manner I am optimistic of winning medal in Tokyo.”
The 2017 World Champion, who also won the 48kg gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is currently ranked fourth with a best lift of 201kg (at qualifying event) ahead of the Asian Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The Chinese duo of Zhihui Hou (211kg) and Huihua Jiang (212kg) currently lead the rankings as a total of 13 lifters make the cut for Tokyo Olympics in every category with the Kazakhstan event (April 16-25) being the final Olympic qualification.
Training at NIS Patiala national camp meant that Mirabai has not gone home to Manipur for long and has been engrossed in training.
National coach Vijay Sharma, told PTI, his ward is on the right track for Tokyo Olympics. “We missed two lifts, if she had cleared one (either in snatch or clean and jerk), we could have achieved the target here. Our target here was between 203-205kg,” Sharma said.
“She was not at her peak form. It’s the pre-competition period. Our target was this only. We wanted to give a check and I think she is on right track.” Mirabai’s next target is to achieve 210kg in the Asian Championships.
“We have planned our journey as per our limits. We don’t want to rush things, keeping injuries in mind. But I’m strongly hopeful we can make it,” Sharma said.
“The Chinese may have achieved 211kg-212kg in other competitions but at Olympic level, I think a gold will come in range of 207kg-210kg,” he said.
If Mirabai is able to keep her fitness regime strong and show gradual progress, she can win India’s first gold in weightlifting since Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in Sydney 2000.