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Home Weightlifting Where do Indian weightlifters stand in their race to qualify for Tokyo...

Where do Indian weightlifters stand in their race to qualify for Tokyo Olympics?

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Weightlifting Qualification Update – Women

Weightlifting Olympic Qualification has entered its final ranking period and competition for the few Olympic slots available is heating up. 

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, 2020. 

In short, the rankings are based on a total of 4 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

However, every country is also restricted to a maximum of only 4 male + 4 female lifters in Tokyo, with some countries (including India) being allowed an even lower number on account of a high number of doping violations. This is an important criterion as a total of 7 male + 7 female categories will be contested in Tokyo, and thus countries that qualify more than the allowed number of lifters will be forced to forego quotas and choose which categories to compete in.

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.

Mirabai Chanu

Mirabai Chanu (Women’s 49 kg)

World Rank Effective Olympic Rank Name Nation Best Total (kg) Ranking Points
1 1 HOU Zhihui CHN 211 4703
3 2 RI Song Gum PRK 209 4209
4 3 MIRABAI Chanu Saikhom IND 201 3870
6 4 DELACRUZ Jourdan Elizabeth USA 184 3196
7 5 AISAH Windy Cantika INA 190 3128
8 6 SEGURA SEGURA Ana Iris COL 188 3121
9 7 SOBOL Kristina Ivanovna RUS 187 2964
10 8 ANDRIES Elena Ramona ROU 190 2912
11 9 VUONG Thi Huyen VIE 183 2902
12 10 MICHEL Anais FRA 181 2745
13 11 ROSA FIGUEIREDO Nathasha BRA 181 2741
14 12 PIRON CANDELARIO Beatriz Elizabeth DOM 193 2563
17 13 STERCKX Nina BEL 176 2528
18 14 BRADDOCK Amanda Melissa CAN 174 2416
19 15 FANG Wan-Ling TPE 183 2350

The “World Rank” column in the above table shows the current world ranking of the lifters in Mirabai’s 49kg category, whereas the “Effective Olympic Rank” column shows the 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

Mirabai is currently ranked 4th in her category as per the World Rankings, 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. 

Thus, it is virtually impossible for her to drop out of the top 8 and hence, as long as she stays injury free and there are no doping controversies (not necessarily just from her, as doping from other Indians can also indirectly affect her as per the qualification rules), she will be travelling to Tokyo and will be one of India’s biggest medal contenders across all sports.

rakhi halder
Rakhi Halder

Rakhi Halder (Women’s 64 kg)

World Rank Effective Olympic Rank Name Nation Best Total (kg) Ranking Points
1 1 DENG Wei CHN 261 5054
2 2 KUO Hsing-Chun TPE 246 4864
3 3 CHOE Hyo Sim PRK 238 4531
6 4 PEREZ TIGRERO Mercedes Isabel COL 238 3622
7 5 LEPSA Irina-Lacramioara ROU 235 3516
8 6 CHARRON Maude G CAN 230 3340
9 7 FIGUEROA ROLDAN Yusleidy Mariana VEN 218 3282
10 8 BORDIGNON Giorgia ITA 222 3089
11 9 GOMEZ VALDIVIA Janeth MEX 213 3021
13 10 FAYZULLAEVA Kumushkhon UZB 222 2905
14 11 TCHAKOUNTE Dora Meiriama FRA 204 2862
17 12 HALDER Rakhi IND 218 2764
19 13 LEVENT Nuray TUR 213 2649
20 14 ANDO Elreen Ann PHI 216 2553
22 15 SASSER Mathlynn Langtor USA 232 2476
23 16 PALACIOS DAJOMES Angie Paola ECU 228 2449
24 17 SMITH Zoe GBR 225 2438
25 18 KUSTERER Sabine Beate GER 213 2435
29 19 COCHRANE Sarah Maureen AUS 206 2300
30 20 RODRIGUEZ MITJAN Marina De La Caridad CUB 222 2260
32 21 SIGNAL Megan Ann NZL 207 2181
35 22 KIM Yera KOR 217 2105
39 23 VUOHIJOKI Anni Teija Orvokki FIN 213 1978
40 24 CASADEVALL Maria Luz ARG 198 1941

With most of the media focus on Mirabai and Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Rakhi Halder has largely slipped under the radar. But she has shown steady improvement, from lifting 212 kg at the Asian Championships in April 2019 to 218 kg at the Qatar International Cup in December 2019, and hence has an outside shot at Tokyo.

Rakhi currently has a World Ranking of 17, but this improves to 12 once the 1 lifter per country restriction is applied. However, this Olympic ranking of 12 is a little inflated, as there are lifters from USA, Cuba, Ecuador and Britain who have all lifted higher weights than Rakhi, but are currently ranked lower as they are yet to compete in the 3rd ranking period. Thus, eventually, all these lifters would be expected to overtake Rakhi on the rankings.

So, Rakhi will need to depend on the Asian quota. Currently, there are 3 lifters fighting for this Asian quota – Kumushkhon Fayzullaeva (UZB, best total 222 kg), Kim Yera (KOR, best total 217 kg) and Rakhi (best total 218 kg). A 4th lifter, Chen Wen-Huei (TPE, best total 222 kg), will also enter this race if her country-mate and current Olympic Rank 2 Kuo Hsing-Chun chooses the 59 kg category over the 64 kg for Tokyo, which she is likely to do.

However, this race is likely to come down to just Fayzullaeva and Chen, both having lifted 4-5 kg higher than Kim and Rakhi. The Uzbek lifter in particular currently has an Olympic rank of 10, has already met all the minimum eligibility criteria and also is clearly one of the top 2 female lifters in her country across categories, thus not having to worry about being left out on account of the fact that Uzbekistan can send only 2 female lifters to Tokyo across all the 7 categories (due to doping restrictions).

In order to overtake Fayzullaeva, Rakhi will have to show tremendous improvement and lift around 224 kg at the upcoming Asian Championships in April (besides of course Fayzullaeva herself being unable to up her current lifted totals), which seems unlikely. As for Chen, she had a weak performance at the China World Cup in December 2019, but if she can match the performance she put up in the previous 2 ranking periods, none of the remaining contenders should be able to catch her. 

One back-door possibility for Rakhi is that Chen is unable to reproduce her past results, and Fayzullaeva leaves the Asian quota race altogether, by herself entering the top 8 of the rankings and hence obtaining a direct world ranking spot! While this may be possible if nations like North Korea, Ecuador and USA choose lifters in other categories over the 64 kg category, it is quite unlikely. If it does happen, then the Asian quota race will come down to Rakhi and Kim (who is yet to compete in the 3rd ranking period) and that is an extremely tight race, though here there is also a chance that South Korea might pass over Kim for lifters in other categories. 

Thus, on the whole, Rakhi is unlikely to be on the flight to Tokyo. She needs to either show significant improvement to lift around 224 kg in April, or she needs a host of permutations and combinations to work out perfectly in her favour.

Also, as explained in this article, outside of Mirabai and Rakhi, no other Indian women weightlifter is truly in contention for Tokyo, with none of them even making the trip to Doha in December 2019 for silverlevel ranking tournament, Qatar International Cup.

Weightlifting Qualification Update – Men

This part now looks at the qualification of men.

Jeremy Lalrinnunga

Jeremy Lalrinnunga (Men’s 67 kg)

World Rank Effective Olympic Rank Name Nation Best Total (kg) Ranking Points
1 1 CHEN Lijun CHN 339 4408
3 2 MAYORA PERNIA Julio Ruben VEN 322 4044
5 3 PAK Jong Ju PRK 330 3916
7 4 ERGASHEV Adkhamjon UZB 328 3805
8 5 MOSQUERA VALENCIA Francisco Antonio COL 280 3762
9 6 KONNAI Mitsunori JPN 317 3597
11 7 ZANNI Mirko ITA 320 3552
13 8 DENI INA 315 3536
14 9 KINGUE MATAM Bernardin Ledoux FRA 313 3457
15 10 OZBEK Muhammed Furkan TUR 309 3372
16 11 MUNOZ MARTINEZ Jonathan Antonio MEX 312 3342
17 12 LAPTSEU Henadz BLR 313 3225
18 13 BRANDHUBER Simon Josef GER 311 3214
19 14 JEREMY Lalrinnunga IND 306 3120
22 15 ANDRIATSITOHAINA Tojonirina Alain MAD 300 2945
23 16 HERNANDEZ MENDOZA Acoran Juan ESP 297 2830
26 17 BARDALEZ TUISIMA Luis David PER 293 2786
27 18 PETROV Petr CZE 294 2782
30 19 CHKHEIDZE Goga GEO 311 2617
31 20 COLONIA Nestor PHI 287 2513
32 21 HAN Myeongmok KOR 305 2454
33 22 GROZDEV Stilyan Rosenov BUL 302 2329
34 23 PINEDA ZETA Edgar Ismael GUA 297 2217
39 24 ALMAZYADI Nawaf Mohammed S KSA 297 2034

India’s Youth Olympic Champion and Youth World Record holder Jeremy Lalrinnunga has been showing rapid improvement throughout the last year, upping his total weight lifted from 297 kg at the Asian Championships in April 2019, to 306 kg at the Qatar International Cup in December 2019. With these performances, he has put himself in contention for Tokyo. 

As per the current world rankings, Jeremy is placed at 19th position. This, however, improves to 14th once the restriction of 1 lifter per country is applied. But, he is still some way off from entering the top 8, who will earn direct spots to Tokyo. Thus, Jeremy will need to rely on Asian quota.

Currently, Jeremy is the highest-ranked Asian lifter in his category outside the top 8, and hence in Olympic Qualification position. However, he is being chased by Nestor Colonia of the Philippines, and more importantly, by Han Myeongmok of South Korea. 

While Nestor has already put up 4 results with the best total of only 287 kg (as opposed to Jeremy’s 306 kg) and is unlikely to catch Jeremy, Myeongmok actually has still not put up a completed performance in the 3rd qualification period. This is because while Myeongmok entered the China World Cup in December 2019, he pulled out after only the snatch competition, possibly on account of an injury. 

In the first two Olympic qualification periods, Myeongmok has totals lifted of 305 kg and 304 kg, whereas Jeremy only has 297 kg and 299 kg. This puts Jeremy at a significant disadvantage and a similar 304-305 performance by Myeongmok in the current period will put him ahead of Jeremy in the rankings. 

Realistically, the only way Jeremy stays ahead of Myeongmok is if the South Korean is seriously injured and unable to match his previous numbers in this period or if Jeremy continues on his steep improvement path and further improves his own total to the 310-312 kg range. Jeremy will have multiple chances to do so though, with the Asian Junior Championships, the World Junior Championships and the Asian Championships all gold level ranking events scheduled within the next 3 months.

A remote possibility is that, even if Myeongmok overtakes Jeremy in the rankings, South Korea might not send him to the Olympics. This is because South Korea can send a maximum of only 4 male lifters to Tokyo, and currently, they have lifters in Men’s 73 kg, 96 kg and 109 kg who are all likely to be preferred over Han Myeongmok. The 4th South Korean spot may turn out to be a toss-up between Myeongmok and Ham Sang Il, who competes in the +109 kg category, but at the moment Myeongmok seems to be in a much better position as Sang Il faces tougher competition for the Asian quota and thus may not even qualify.

Another aspect to note is that Deni of Indonesia currently has an Olympic rank of 8, and needs to stay in the top 8, in order to obtain a direct world ranking quota. If he drops out of the top 8, then he will end up taking the Asian quota ahead of both Myeongmok and Jeremy. However, there is actually quite some wiggle room here and it is unlikely that Deni will drop out of top 8. This is because the current Olympic Rank 2 Julio Mayora Pernia has been competing primarily in the 73 kg category as opposed to 67 kg and is thus likely to choose that category for Tokyo. Similarly, the Colombian Antonio Mosquera might choose 61 kg over 67 kg, whereas Uzbekistan may skip the 67 kg category altogether in favour of sending lifters in other categories.

In conclusion, Jeremy has a shot but needs to further improve to 310-312 kg, or it will most likely be out of his hands and will require external factors going in his favour.

Ajay Singh

Ajay Singh (Men’s 81 kg)

World Rank Effective Olympic Rank Name Nation Best Total (kg) Ranking Points
1 1 SHI Zhiyong CHN 330 4959
4 2 RODALLEGAS CARVAJAL Brayan Santiago COL 363 4091
5 3 ANDREEV Bozhidar Dimitrov BUL 361 4039
6 4 BONNAT MICHEL Zacarias DOM 365 3914
7 5 REJEPOV Rejepbay TKM 363 3809
8 6 SUHAREVS Ritvars LAT 354 3693
9 7 MUELLER Nico GER 355 3691
10 8 MATA PEREZ Andres Eduardo ESP 356 3642
11 9 ASAYONAK Petr BLR 357 3570
12 10 QERIMAJ Erkand ALB 351 3555
13 11 MENDEZ PEREZ Arley CHI 344 3497
16 12 RAHIMOV Nijat KAZ 344 3448
19 13 TOSHTEMIROV Mukhammadkodir UZB 348 3143
20 14 WON Jeongsik KOR 323 3001
21 15 MAHMOUD Mohamed Ihab Youssef Ahmed EGY 373 2980
22 16 RODRIGUEZ OCASIO Christian Angel USA 336 2939
23 17 PIZZOLATO Antonino ITA 358 2912
25 18 CHOE Jon Wi PRK 359 2686
27 19 HARUTYUNYAN Rafik ARM 344 2522
29 20 SAEZ VERA Olfides CUB 331 2446
30 21 ALAM Omed DEN 319 2381
31 22 BELLEMARRE Alex CAN 337 2345
32 23 ZWARYCZ Krzysztof Maciej POL 335 2312
33 24 SINGH Ajay IND 338 2287
34 25 SAMKO Karol SVK 319 2268
35 26 AL-HUSSEIN Ahmed Farooq Ghulam IRQ 332 2256
37 27 WAKELING Brandon Dean AUS 0 2194
38 28 HERNANDEZ MARTINEZ Alexander PUR 327 2161
39 29 KASAI Takehiro JPN 330 2153
40 30 MCTAGGART Cameron David NZL 305 2133
41 31 BAHLOUL Ramzi TUN 331 2128
42 32 NJOYA Ahmed Valdy CMR 311 2083
45 33 TEBIDZE Lomia GEO 328 1989
47 34 MUSIC Amar CRO 0 1987
48 35 ATENCIA PRIOU Amel Karim PER 302 1932
49 36 BROWN Sean Kevin IRL 317 1916
53 37 SOLTANI Hossein IRI 345 1720
57 38 ALIGULIYEV Kanan AZE 306 1658
59 39 GETTS Victor RUS 344 1645
65 40 CHUANG Sheng-Min TPE 322 1447

In a previous article, I had analysed that no Indian weightlifter other than Mirabai Chanu, Rakhi Halder and Jeremy Lalrinnunga is truly in the Tokyo 2020 race. However, since then, Ajay Singh has increased his total weight lifted by a whopping 16 kg from 322 kg in the first ranking period to 338 kg in the second ranking period!

Even then, at first glance, it seems that Ajay has no chance for Tokyo with an effective Olympic ranking of only 24 and a total of 31 lifters, including many Asians, having lifted higher than him so far. However, a deeper analysis shows that Men’s 81 kg has been a very strange category. 

Despite having lifted higher totals than Ajay, many lifters are no longer in the running. In particular, Asian lifters Choe Jon Wi (PRK), RI Ching Song (PRK), Safaa Aljumaili (IRQ) and Kim Woo Jae (KOR) all lifted 345+ in the first ranking period, but did not even put up a proper performance in the second-ranking period and are thus virtually eliminated!

The only way Ajay can get to Tokyo is on the Asian Quota. This quota is currently a race between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq and India. The South Korean Won Jeongsik is present in the above ranking table but he is likely to choose the 73 kg category over the 81 kg category.

The Kazakhstan challenge is led by Olympic Rank 12 Nijat Rahimov with his countryman Denis Ulanov close behind. Both of them have already completed their minimum participation requirements and have put some distance between them and the competition. From an Indian perspective, there is essentially no chance Ajay can catch either of them.

However, there are two ways in which Kazakhstan might leave the Asian quota race altogether. First of all, due to its past doping transgressions, Kazakhstan is allowed to send only 1 male weightlifter to Tokyo. Thus, Kazakhstan will most likely have to choose between competing in either 81 kg or 109 kg, though the 81 kg lifters seem to be slightly ahead at present. 

Secondly, one of the Kazakh lifters, especially Denis Ulanov who has a best-lifted total of 356 kg and is capable of earning a lot more points in the current ranking period, might enter the top 8 in the rankings and thus exit Kazakhstan from the Asian quota race in that manner. This might also be assisted by countries like Bulgaria, Belarus and USA choosing lifters in other categories over the 81 kg category. On the whole, it is reasonably likely that Ulanov breaks into the top 8.

Then there is the Uzbek lifter Mukhammadkodir Toshtemirov who would have been very well placed to take the Asian quota if Kazakhstan drops out of the race. However, with Uzbekistan allowed only 2 male lifters at Tokyo due to doping issues, they are very likely to pass over Toshtemirov in favour of lifters in the 67 kg, 73 kg or 109 kg categories. Similarly, Iran (also allowed only 2 male lifters in Tokyo) also seem to have better lifters in the 96 kg, 109 kg and +109 kg categories who are likely to be chosen over Hossein Soltani in the 81 kg.

So, through a complex maze of under-performances and doping-related entry restrictions, the Asian quota race in 81 kg might boil down to just Ajay Singh and Ahmed Al-Hussein of Iraq. This is an incredibly close race with neither of the lifters having yet competed in the current ranking period. While Ajay needs to put up just one good performance at the Asian Championship in April (the only gold level tournament left for him), Ahmed will likely need to put in 2 more good performances in order to be competitive.

One issue though might be whether Ajay and the Weightlifting Federation of India are even aware that Ajay has a shot, as unlike Rakhi, Jeremy and Mirabai, Ajay did not travel to Qatar in December for the silver level ranking event.

Beyond Jeremy and Ajay, the Tokyo hopes of other Indian male weightlifters seem more or less over, barring some miracle on account of doping and/or injuries. 

So while Mirabai Chanu will be one of India’s best medal hopes at Tokyo 2020, it is also quite possible that she will be India’s only representative in weightlifting at the games. Ajay Singh though may end up joining Mirabai on the back of improved performance in the 2nd ranking period, as well as a lot of luck. Jeremy Lalrinnunga and Rakhi Halder both have a shot but need to lift further higher totals at the Nur-Sultan Asian Championships in April or hope that the stars align just right for them.

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