Mirabai Chanu wins silver | Other Sports

Tokyo Olympics | Mirabai Chanu caps eventful journey with heroic performance

India's Mirabai Chanu reacts after a successful attempt at the Clean & Jerk in women's 49Kg category weightlifting event at the Summer Olympics 2020, in Tokyo, on July 24, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Mirabai Chanu’s magnificent Tokyo tale had its seeds sown a few years back. When her graph was witnessing a steady rise, following a comeback from a lower back injury that robbed several months in 2018, her performances in consecutive National championships in Visakhapatnam (2019) and Kolkata (2020) gave it a much-needed boost.

Visakhapatnam was particularly crucial, considering it was her second competition after recovering from injury. Within days of competing in the EGAT championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in February 2019, Mirabai was ready to test herself.

To everyone’s horror, the former World champion in 48 kg lost balance and landed on her hip during the first snatch for 83kg. Off the next, the barbell fell behind her, leaving the fans at the competition hall at the Railway Indoor Sports Enclave nervous and anxious.

Fear of the back injury returning to haunt her was the major concern.

However, Mirabai succeeded on her third and final snatch, heaving a sigh of relief and making it known that everything was fine.

She lifted 111 kg in her second clean and jerk, her total of 194 kg two more than her effort in Thailand.

“Normally, I lift 83 kg easily. I don’t know what went wrong. Maybe I made a mistake or took it too lightly,” said Mirabai.

Wearing a pair of earrings resembling the five Olympics rings, she revealed how difficult it was to not train for months due to the back injury.

Mirabai, the positive person that she is, felt that the time on the sidelines allowed her to work on her technique.

The same year, she improved her mark while competing in two major competitions. She lifted 199 kg (86, 113) in the Asian championships in Ningbo City in April and breached the psychological 200-mark with an aggregate of 201 kg (87, 114) in the World Championships in Pattaya in September. She finished fourth in both events.

Just before the pandemic hit India in 2020, Mirabai was in action at the Kolkata Nationals.

The eagerness and enthusiasm to push her total up towards the ultimate target of 210 kg were clearly there. Mirabai knew that a lift of 210 would positively land her on the podium and even make her a gold medal contender at Tokyo 2020.

Mirabai went about her business with a lot more confidence, beginning with 85 kg and improving it to 88 kg on her second snatch.

In clean and jerk, she started with 111 kg and raised it to 115 kg in her first two lifts. A wide round of applause greeted her as she rewrote three of her National records set in Pattaya five months ago.

“The target is to do 90 kg in snatch and 120 kg in clean and jerk,” she had said then.

Even as the pandemic-induced lockdown brought everything to a standstill, Mirabai and her coach Vijay Sharma took the opportunity to travel to the U.S. to consult expert physio Dr. Aaron Horschig and ensure that the back issue never troubled her again.

A few corrective exercises and some technical tweaks helped Mirabai secure a bronze in the Asian championships in Tashkent in April 2021 with an effort of 205 kg, including a clean and jerk world record of 119 kg.

Though she was closer to her target, Mirabai felt that she needed to work on her snatch.

Realising that a problem in the right shoulder could be troubling Mirabai’s snatch, Vijay rushed with his ward to Dr. Horschig again, hoping to fix the issue a few months before the Olympics.

After addressing her shoulder issue and knee pain that had suddenly surfaced, Mirabai approached the Tokyo Games with renewed confidence and made a statement by recording 210 kg, the highest entry, in the start-list of the women’s 49 kg weight class.

It was an indication that she was at the top of her game and was willing to push herself for the gold on a platform where Chinese Hu Zhihui, who has a personal best and world record of 213 kg, was considered the biggest contender.

After her World title triumph in 2017, the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) had underscored that she was the first Indian to do so in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) era, obviously referring to Karnam Malleswari’s world crowns in the late 1990s and the bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Mirabai’s journey from Rio 2016, where she had registered three ‘no lifts’ in clean and jerk, to the Tokyo silver is a spectacular turnaround that reflects her evolution — from a teenager idolising World Championships and Asian Games medallist Kunjarani Devi from her State Manipur to becoming an Olympic medallist herself.

The 26-year-old Manipuri’s eventful five-year journey has culminated in a heroic performance on the world’s grandest stage. It is all the memorable given that she has risen from a modest economic background and overcame all hurdles along the way.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 6:01:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/tokyo-olympics-mirabai-chanu-caps-eventful-journey-with-heroic-performance/article35506734.ece

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