Chanu, Phogat stand to gain due to North Korea’s withdrawal
- The biggest upheaval due to North Korea’s withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics will be felt in the weightlifting arena and India’s Mirabai Chanu, seen as a medal prospect in Tokyo, will stand to gain.
The biggest upheaval due to North Korea’s withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics will be felt in the weightlifting arena and India’s Mirabai Chanu, seen as a medal prospect in Tokyo, will stand to gain.
Weightlifting has been North Korea’s dominant discipline in the Summer Olympics. The country won 10 medals, including five gold, in the last three editions. In all, North Korea has 17 weightlifting medals at the Olympics, followed by 10 in wrestling. With North Korean weightlifters ranked high in the world in several of the 14 categories (7 men, 7 women), they were again strong medal contenders.
In Chanu’s category (49kg), North Korea’s Ri Song-gum is third in world ranking, a spot ahead of the Indian. Two weightlifters from China – Hou Zhihui and Jiang Huihua - occupy the first two places. Only one from China can compete in the category. With Ri’s absence, Chanu will be better placed to push for a podium finish.
At the 2019 world championships, Chanu just missed a medal, finishing fourth. She was beaten by Ri to the bronze. Ri lifted a total of 204kg while Chanu's overall lift was 201kg - her personal best at the time. The Chinese lifters were way ahead for a gold-silver finish. Jiang had a total lift of 212 kg while Hou lifted 211 kg. With Ri's absence, Chanu can hope to put herself in the medal bracket. Fourth-placed Ana Segura of Colombia was way below with 188kg.
Since then, Chanu has bettered her personal best to 203 kg (88kg in snatch, 115kg in clean and jerk) at the 2020 senior nationals.
The Asian Championships from April 16-25 will be a good indicator for Chanu to see where she stands. It is a gold level Olympic qualifying event. The weightlifting qualifying period runs till April 30. Chanu is third in the qualification race, behind Hou and Ri. USA's Delacruz Jourdan Elizabeth, who is behind Chanu in the qualifying race, has a best of 195kg.
Chanu had a miserable 2016 Rio Olympics in 48kg. She failed in all three attempts in clean-and-jerk. She though won gold in the division at the 2017 world championships.
In 49kg, she has been targeting 207-210 kg for the Tokyo Olympics. She came back strongly to win gold at the 2017 World Championships in 48kg. The weight classes have since been revised and she has moved to 49kg.
Another big Indian star who is likely to gain is Vinesh Phogat as North Korean world champion in 53 kg, Pak Yong-mi out of the way. Vinesh will still have plenty of competition in a world class field. Japan's Mayu Mukaida has often blocked her way. She beat the Indian in the Round of 16 at the world championships, going on to win silver. Mukaida again was too strong for Vinesh at the Asian Championships final here last year. Then there is China's Pang Qianyu, bronze medallist in the 2018 and 2019 worlds.