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Mirabai Chanu's medal hope at Tokyo Olympics improve with North Korea pulling out!

With North Korea pulling out of Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu can ensure a medal at the Games, here's how.

Mirabai Chanu (Source: Times of India)

Mirabai Chanu (Source: Times of India)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 24 July 2021 7:04 AM GMT

With the rising cases of COVID-19 across the world, North Korea has on Tuesday announced it will not take part in the Tokyo Olympics this year. They put forward their decision saying it is to protect the athletes from the virus.

The announcement makes North Korea the first major country to skip the delayed 2020 Games because of the pandemic. The event is due to begin on 23 July. The decision was made at an Olympic committee meeting on 25 March, according to a report by the state-run site Sports in the DPRK.

The country has taken stringent measures against the virus since it broke out last year. It shut off its borders in late January and later quarantined hundreds of foreigners in its capital. Since early last year, trains and wagons have been forbidden to enter or leave North Korea, with most international passenger flights stopped as well.

In the meanwhile, in Japan, an Olympic preparatory event was cancelled after Covid infections broke out at a training camp for the Japanese water polo team - with seven people testing positive for the virus. It comes after the announcement that the Osaka leg of the Olympic torch relay would be cancelled as infections in the city hit record highs.

There have been growing concerns in Japan that more infectious strains of the virus could be driving a potential fourth wave of the virus in the country.

Back in India, athletes are preparing themselves to show their mettle at the Games. Olympics-bound athletes are being gradually administered vaccine for the coronavirus. Teams are being announced for different disciplines, while several athletes are still awaiting final qualification for the games. One of the brightest prospects for India at the Tokyo Olympics, which is yet to officially confirm a berth at the Tokyo Olympics is Mirabai Chanu. However, with North Korea pulling out of the Games, Mirabai's chances of winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics further improves.

Mirabai Chanu at 2018 Commonwealth Games

Here's why Mirabai's chances of winning a medal at Tokyo Olympics improve?

Weightlifting Olympic Qualification has entered its final ranking period. The qualification (explained here in detail) will be based on world rankings. The world rankings are divided into 3 ranking periods, with the current and final period slated to end on April 30, 2021.

All results and rankings achieved by weightlifters during the qualifying events held prior to the cessation of qualifying due to COVID has been retained with no changes to their value.

The replacements for the cancelled events originally scheduled will be held during this period. The revised qualification system has been developed around key principles of clean competition and fairness.

The rankings are based on a total of four performances of each lifter, and the top 8 ranked lifters in each category (with a restriction of 1 lifter per country) will qualify for Tokyo, in addition to the best lifter from each continent ranked outside the top 8.

By now, many of the top lifters in the world have completed their minimum participation requirements and thus have the maximum 4 results constituting their rankings. Hence, it provides a great opportunity to analyse where Indian lifters stand.

Effective Olympic ranking for women's 49 kg in Weightlifting

The "Effective Olympic Rank" column in the above table shows the current ranking after accounting for the fact that a maximum of only 1 lifter per category per country can travel to Tokyo.

So, first things first, Mirabai Chanu is virtually qualified for Tokyo! The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist is currently ranked 4th in her category as per the Effective Olympic Rank, but with 2 of the 3 lifters above her being Chinese, she is essentially ranked 3rd in the Olympic qualification process. Even in terms of weight lifted, the only lifters to have lifted a higher total than her are the Chinese and the North Korean Ri Song Gum, with all other lifters being a significant distance behind.

Now, with the pulling out of North Korea, we can expect Ri Song Gun won't be a challenge for Mirabai at the Tokyo Olympics and virtually she will be the second-best weightlifter in the Games. Her personal best performance is 203 kg with which she won the 49kg gold in the National Weightlifting Championships in February 2020. China will either be able to field Zhihui Hou or Huihua Ziang at the Olympics, whose best performances have been recorded as 211 kg and 212 kg, respectively.

There are possibilities that other countries will be pulling out of the games. Mirabai just has to ensure that she stays injury-free and retains her form to win a medal at the Tokyo Games and her chances of winning bronze further get lifted with real possibilities of winning a silver, who knows maybe a gold!

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