File Photo of Mirabai Chanu. (Getty Images)
File Photo of Mirabai Chanu. (Getty Images)

Lifter Mirabai Chanu hopes progress in work leads to Tokyo Olympics medal

  • Five years on from Rio, Mirabai Chanu is a mature lifter and will go into the Tokyo Olympics better prepared.
By Avishek Roy
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 10:53 PM IST

Mirabai Chanu was shattered after a disappointing performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics. ‘No lift’ in all three clean and jerk attempts left her to return home clueless as to what had happened.

She was confronted with a similar situation at the Asian Championships this month. Chanu failed in her first two attempts in snatch before managing 86kg in her final try. She brilliantly made up the deficit in clean and jerk with a world record lift of 119kg to finish with bronze, behind two Chinese rivals.

Five years on from Rio, Chanu is a mature lifter and will go into the Tokyo Olympics better prepared.

“After Rio, I broke down when I could not bring home a medal even after working so hard in training. I was unable to understand why I failed. It was a tough period,” said Chanu during an interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India.

Chanu consulted a sports psychologist which helped fight the demons in her head.

“Working with a psychologist helped a lot. It was my first Olympics. There was so much pressure because of the expectations. People were expecting a medal from me.”

It changed her approach. She focused on the process and stuck to her technique if she was unsuccessful in any lift, like in Tashkent when she bounced back.

“I was nervous in Tashkent because I was competing after more than a year. After I failed in the first two attempts, I was just trying to remind myself that I do this in training every day and that I must replicate that in my next attempt.

“There is very little time between lifts. My coach (Vijay Sharma) kept telling me ‘nothing is lost' and asked me to focus on technique. In clean and jerk I was looking to cover up the deficit. Now I am always focusing on my technique.

“If you fail in your first lift one will feel low. You think about what will happen in the second lift. You have to keep doing what you have done in training, concentrate. Doesn’t matter if I fail once, there is another chance coming up.”

She is more adept at clean and jerk and is working to polish her technique in snatch. “I have felt more comfortable in clean and jerk from the beginning. In snatch, my technique was not very good, so I could not go higher. I am still working on my technique in snatch.”

At Tashkent, Chanu lifted a personal best of 205kg, finishing behind China’s Hou Zhihui (213kg) and Jiang Huihua (207kg). The 26-year-old Indian is regarded as a strong medal prospect at the Tokyo Olympics.

Chanu recovered well after the Rio Olympics. She won gold at the 2017 world championships in 48kg. She had another low phase after winning gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games due to lower back problems. This year, she worked under renowned physiotherapist Aaron Horschig in the US with the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPs) funding her training and rehabilitation.

“After I started training in lockdown the back problem resurfaced. There is a huge improvement after working with Dr. Horschig. My training methods and routines have changed. If I do a heavy workout one day, I take it lightly the next day. He made me do a lot of rehabilitation exercises, for my shoulder, back, and on various movements.”

Chanu wants to return to the US for training. “I’m totally fit now and fully focused to give my best at Tokyo and return with a medal.”

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