With the doping debacle behind them, Indian weightlifters return after a gap of eight years

After a gap of eight years, India will be back in the weightlifting competitions at the Olympic Games.

Shaking off the taint of doping that dogged Indian weightlifting for more than a decade, N. Soniya Chanu (48kg women) and K. Ravi Kumar (69kg men) are ready to face the challenge in London.

Weightlifting had saved India’s blushes in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where Karnam Malleswari claimed the women’s 69kg bronze medal. Four years later, the trio of Malleswari, Kunjarani Devi and Sanamacha Chanu failed to make an impression in Athens.

Bad memories

The 2004 Olympics provided the only instance where Indian competitors were caught for doping at the Games. Lifters Chanu and Pratima Kumari were sent home in disgrace as the dope-net closed in on them.

Monika Devi’s last-minute exclusion from the Beijing-bound squad because of doping set the stage for a raging controversy four years ago. The scourge of drugs in Indian weightlifting continued well into 2010.

Two international suspensions for the country, and several individual suspensions later, the ‘elite’ lifters are at least not showing the doping trend of their predecessors. The two-member squad to the London Games has to be assessed in this perspective.

Chance for a good finish

The 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Soniya has a chance to earn a respectable finish. There is some talk of even a medal. But it will depend on the entries from other countries, especially China. Since a country can only enter four women across seven weight categories, it is yet uncertain where all the top Chinese lifters will figure.

A lift of 171kg had brought Soniya the sixth place in the Paris world championships last year. She had aggregated 175kg (through a four kg hike in clean and jerk) to end up fourth in the Asian championships in April last.

Coach Hansa Sharma was hopeful about Soniya reaching the 180kg mark. “Soniya’s fitness has improved and it will show in her performance,” said Hansa.

Over-enthusiastic

Commonwealth Games gold winner Ravi Kumar is also expected to improve upon his previous showing.

He had lifted a total of 311kg for the 19th spot in the world championships and repeated his performance at the Asian championships to bag the sixth place.

D.D. Sharma, Ravi Kumar’s personal coach for the last five years, sounded a touch over-enthusiastic recently. “Ravi has overcome his shoulder injury and is fully motivated. If he does in the range of 330-335kg, he will have a chance,” said Sharma.

The 24-year-old Army lifter went a step further on Monday. He was quoted by PTI as saying that he was doing 360kg total in training, which is an unbelievable 18kg more than the top-ranked Chinese, Wu Chao. Even an improvement of 19kg which the coach has projected is unrealistic.

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