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Lift as smooth as Mirabai Chanu

On an otherwise grim day for India in Tokyo Olympics, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu did exactly what she was destined to do and smoothly bagged a silver medal.

Mirabai Chanu at Tokyo Olympics

Mirabai Chanu at the Tokyo Olympics (Source- Getty Images)


Md Imtiaz

Updated: 24 July 2021 11:34 AM GMT

Saturday could have been one of India's biggest days in its sporting history. Pundits and fans had predicted a possibility of a six-medal haul for India on Day 1 of the Tokyo Olympics, combining in shooting, archery, and weightlifting.

As the day progressed, the former two segments fizzed out in sheer pressure. World no.1 archer Deepika Kumari exited in the quarterfinals. The only Indian shooter to win a gold medal in ISSF World Championship, ISSF World Cup, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games, and Asian Air Gun Championship, Saurabh Chaudhury, succumbed to the pressure of the final of the men's 10m Air Pistol events and finishes seventh. This is Olympics! It's proved now that athletes need a different built, way more than rankings the top ranking, to strike a silverware greatest sporting event in the world.
But Mirabai Chanu delivers! How? Perhaps a better answer to this lies in the probability factors of shooting and archery, where precision plays the most significant role every single time one nudges the arrow and presses the trigger. Weightlifting, however, magnifies one's strength β€” not the strength to beat the opponent but oneself in their own capability of lifting the heavyweights.
Manipur's Mirabai Chanu has been challenging herself day in and day out to bring the medal home. Such kind of confidence that she was already deemed to be the sure-shot silver medal winner in the 49kg women's weight category. She comes, she lifts and she bags the medal β€” as smoothly as it was foretold.
Mirabai Chanu won India's first medal at the Tokyo Olympics after clinching silver in the women's 49 kg event on Saturday. This is India's first silver in weightlifting at the Olympics. She lifted a total of 202 kg.
Going into Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai's biggest concern was her snatch technique. Even at the Rio Olympics, she failed her first two lifts in the snatch, and just about managed to pull off a modest third attempt. Mirabai Chanu made a conservative first attempt at 84kg in the snatch today. She maintained her calm and lifted it comfortably with good composure.
Mirabai Chanu with her team at the Tokyo Olympics
She then had another successful lift at 87 kg before failing in her third and final lift at 89 kg. In her preferred clean & jerk category, Mirabai's successfully lifted at 110 kg and 115 kg. respectively. Her final lift at 117 kg was unsuccessful, but she still made a valiant attempt knowing she has won the silver by then. Her confidence reflected every time after a successful lift as her lips twirled with the liveliest smile of happiness. Dazzling in her amber red costume, Mirabai showed the judges this is what she was destined to do.
China's Hou Zhihui won the gold medal with a total of 210 kg, setting a new Olympic record in the event, while Indonesia's Aisah Windy Cantika won bronze with a total of 194 kg.
Chanu's return since her Rio debacle has been a remarkable one. She first silenced her detractors by winning the gold in the 2017 World Championships and then the Commonwealth Games a year later. Besides, the diminutive Manipuri also overcame an unspecified back problem, which marred her progress in 2018, and changed her weight category to 49kg from her original 48 kg. Making a come back in February last year, Mirabai continued to compete in different events till the pandemic-induced break.
However, her body was frail with the pain of dreadful injuries. In 2020, her coach Vijay Sharma decided to take Chanu to St. Louis, USA to train and recover under Dr Aaron Horschig, a former weightlifter who is one of the most eminent physiotherapists in the States, having worked with the Major League Baseball (MLB), America's National Football League (NFL), football players and Olympic weightlifters. An evaluation of Chanu's condition spelt some scary conclusions which were rectified by the doctor.
Horschig showed the path for recovery to Chanu, which was reflected in her performance at the Asian Championships this year, where she created the world record in clean and jerk (119 kg) on her way to bronze, further confirming her place at the Tokyo Olympics.
As Mirabai lifted went on lifting her last successful attempt in clean and jerk today, her family members were seen bursting in celebration after being glued in front of the television screen, some 6,000 kilometres away in a nondescript Nongpok Kakching village, near Manipur's capital Imphal. They waited for this moment for five years. Everyone, including Mirabai, waited for five years and did exactly the right things in between that reaped the medal in Tokyo.
As she appeared for an interview on Sony, the panel asked what she would be doing now. Mirabai responded, "I am definitely eating pizza today. My coaches didn't let me eat pizza for a long time. Today is the day, I fulfil all my wishes."

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