Mirabai sets mark, raises the bar

The Asian championships will be from April 16-25 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Adding 7kg in aggregate would need intensity in her training upped from the current 80-85% to 90%, she said.
A file photo of Mirabai Chanu.(Getty Images)
A file photo of Mirabai Chanu.(Getty Images)
Updated on Feb 04, 2020 11:43 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata | By

Hair tied like a Samurai’s bun, S Mirabai Chanu switched on her game face, rubbed hands and strode into the arena to attempt breaking her snatch national record of 87kg by 1kg. A scream of exhortation and she squatted, gripping the bar.

The silence at Khudiram Anushilan Kendra—venue for the senior national weightlifting championships—was broken by some muttering ‘paarbe, (she can)’ twice. In her second attempt, having started with a successful lift of 85 kg, Mirabai, 25, didn’t disappoint.

Amid applause, she smiled and stepped away. Next target: 90kg. This time she failed but given that K Sanjita Chanu was second best at 80kg, it didn’t matter in the race for the women’s 49kg gold.

On her four-feet-nine-inch frame rests hope of an Olympic medal, so it wasn’t surprising that Mirabai would be competing against herself. In clean and jerk, she started with a lift of 111kg and upped her second attempt to 115kg to again break her national record. Her aggregate now stood at 203, better than her national record of 201kg achieved at last year’s world championships and enough to seal the first place. Mirabai set the weight at 117kg for her final attempt. This she couldn’t lift.

“There was a slight pull which caused a problem in receiving (placing the bar on her shoulders),” said Mirabai. “But I am happy. I came here with a target of going beyond 200kg.”

“This (117kg) is not the kind of weight you attempt to touch regularly at training because it increases the risk of injury,” said Vijay Sharma, the national coach who has been training Mirabai since 2014.

With the bronze medal at the world championships going at 204kg—to North Korea’s Ri Song Gum—Mirabai knows she has work to do. “My target is 210kg—120 in clean and jerk and 90 in snatch. I want to get there at the Asian Championships, which is the last qualifying event for the Olympics,” said the 2017 world 48kg champion.

The Asian championships will be from April 16-25 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Adding 7kg in aggregate would need intensity in her training upped from the current 80-85% to 90%, she said.

“Managing weight is the biggest challenge. When you try and control eating to keep the weight down, you feel weak. You need to avoid oil, eat boiled, even if it is fish or red meat,” she said.

For now, eromba—the chutney comprising mashed potato, bamboo shoots and dried fish that is really strong on spices—is the staple of a Manipuri Meitei’s diet and Mirabai’s favourite food will have to wait. “Not that I don’t miss it sometimes. But then, a chance to do something for India awaits,” she said.

“Our target here was to get between 203kg and 205kg so things are going as per plan. I will be happy if she can get to 206-207kg at the Asian championships. There are little tweaks in technique that have to be made and some strength issues that need to be addressed and we have a few weeks to do that,” said Sharma.

He said they will train in Patiala now and head to Kazakhstan some 15 days before the championships.

A camp of 20 days in Tokyo before the Games too is planned, said Sahdev Yadav, general secretary of the Indian Weightlifting Federation.

Mirabai had a miserable 2016 Olympics, failing in all clean-and-jerk attempts in the 48kg—the weights have since been revised and she had to move up to 49kg. “Since then I have been thinking about making amends in Tokyo,” said the weightlifter who lists 2000 Olympics bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari—the only Indian weightlifter to have got the podium so far—and Kunjarani Devi, a multiple medallist at world championships, as role models.

“The Chinese have been doing 208-210 kg for the past four years. (Jiang Huihua won gold at 212 kg and Hou Zhuhui silver at 211kg at the world championships). We started from 194kg (the aggregate that fetched Mirabai gold in the 2017 world championships) so we are running our own race. If we hasten, it could lead to injury. I believe between 207-210 kg we will get an (Olympic) medal. The rest is up to luck and god,” said Sharma.


    Dhiman Sarkar is based in Kolkata with over two decades as a sports journalist. He writes mainly on football.

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