When Karnam Malleswari won the bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics — the only medal won by an Indian woman in the Olympics till date — there was a realistic hope that weightlifting would get a boost in the country and our women lifters will win more medals.
Indian lifters looked like living up to the huge expectations when they bagged four berths for Athens Olympics in 2004, a 100 per cent increase over the two slots they earned for Sydney.
But the dream was shattered at Athens and the slide is evident from the fact that India earned only one berth for Beijing.
Over a fortnight from now, when lone ranger Monika Devi gets ready for competitions in the 69kg category at Beijing, she will not only be hoping to lift herself onto the podium but also pull Indian weightlifting up from rock bottom.
Monika bagged the lone quota place for India by clinching a bronze in the Asian Championship in Japan.
There are huge expectations from Monika and coach Hansa Sharma, under whom she trained till mid July, hopes Monika will be able to come up with her best-ever performance at Beijing.
"After lifting 222 kg (snatch and clean & jerk) at the Asian Championship, she did 224kg in the first trials and 227kg at the camp. As per my calculations her performance should be somewhere between 224-227 kg at Beijing," Sharma said.
However Monika’s preparations were affected by a controversy over the selection trials and selection of a coach to accompany her to Beijing.
She was not the automatic choice for the lone berth and the Indian Weightlifting Federation created some unnecessary controversy by ordering trials involving Monika, Shailaja Pujari and another lifter.
The Sports Ministry also objected to Deodutt Sharma being selected to accompany Monika as coach and said a female coach should go with a woman lifter. Despite all the controversies, Monika is hoping for the best.
Indian women lifters in Olympics
Sydney 2000: Karnam Malleswari and Sanamachu Chanu.
Athens 2004: Malleswari, Kunjarani Devi, Chanu and Pratima Kumari.
Beijing 2008: Monika Devi
Olympic history (Men)
India first took part in the weightlifting competition in 1936 at Berlin.