The Commonwealth Games will be weightlifter Soniya Chanu's first major multi-discipline event, and the lifter from Manipur is leaving no stone unturned to make the opportunity count in front of her home crowd.
Soniya (30), who is employed by Uttar Pradesh Police, pocketed gold in the 48kg weight category with an overall lift of 167kg (73kg snatch + 94kg clean and jerk) at last year's Commonwealth Championship in Malaysia. During the Commonwealth Games' trials in early August, she lifted 173kg (74kg snatch + 99kg clean and jerk). Her best performance is 182kg.
Going by current form, Soniya is certain to add a gold to the country's medal tally during the Games in October. "If Soniya maintains her Commonwealth Championship performance, no one can stop her from winning gold. She is lifting around 8-10kg more than what she did in Malaysia," said national coach, Harnam Singh.
"We have a good set of lifters and we are expecting a good haul in the Games," he added.
For the last two years, Soniya has been sweating it out at national camps and is now waiting for the big day. "Earlier, my best showing at the international arena was a silver in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games. Now, I want to improve it with a Commonwealth Games gold," said Soniya.
"It's one-and-half months to the Games, so technically it's time to concentrate on maintaining form and stretching it till the Games than trying to increase the lift-capacity," she added.
Soniya picked up the sport at the Sports Authority of India's Imphal centre under the guidance of coach, Ranjan Singh. Later, she shifted to SAI's Lucknow centre, a move that landed her a job with the UP Police.
The tough cop started her competitive career in the 48kg category and moved up to 53kg in 2001. It was in this category that she won silver in the Afro-Asian Games. In 2005, she switched back to 48kg. She has also represented the country twice in the 2005 and 2007 World Championships.
"Earlier, I was competing in 53kg, but five years ago I returned to 48kg. I have no difficulty in maintaining my weight," she said.
Her regimen comprises of three hours of weight training in the morning and two hours in the evening. The schedule also includes weight training, gym work and endurance exercises.
Soniya expressed satisfaction with the facilities at the National Institute of Sports (NIS). "The coaching is the best and the diet and accommodation is good. Our federation is also fulfilling our requirement of food supplements," she said. It's 47 days to the Games and Soniya and her fellow lifters are focussed on a podium finish.
Place of birth: Imphal, Manipur
Weight: 48 kg
Team: UP Police
2003 Silver in Afro-Asian Games
2009 Gold in Commonwealth Championship.
Target: Gold in CWG, New Delhi.
Trials lift: 173kg, best lift: 182kg.