'Chanu will have to prepare intelligently for Paris Olympics'
- As Aveenash Pandoo, India's new high-performance director for weightlifting takes over, he says the Olympic silver medallist will have to select tournaments carefully to increase her longevity.
Mirabai Chanu has battled a spate of injuries and endured long recovery phases in her career, before finally shooting to fame with her silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Now she faces yet another hard road ahead as she eyes her third Olympic appearance at Paris 2024. The lifter from Manipur will be 30 by then and India's new high-performance director in weightlifting, Aveenash Pandoo, feels Chanu will have to prepare ‘intelligently’ and focus on ‘selective tournaments’ to increase her longevity.
Pandoo, a former international weightlifter from Mauritius with more than two decades of experience in high performance coaching, however, believed Chanu could deliver again in Paris.
Mirabai Chanu is a fantastic athlete. I remember her downfall in the previous (Rio) Olympics in 2016. Nevertheless, she came back very strongly and medalled in Tokyo Olympics 2020. In between she had injuries and she had to work with professional people (for recovery) and she did very well,” said Pandoo, during an interaction organized by the Sports Authority of India on Friday.
“Going forward, Mirabai will have to be very selective on how she chooses her competitions because now there will be three years adding on to her age (by the Paris Olympics). It will not be easy. But yes, it is possible. Four times Olympics medallist Eko Yuli Irawan from Indonesia has proved that it can be done with a very selective and very intelligent way of preparing."
Irawan, 32, holds the impressive record of winning medals at every Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games. He clinched a silver in Tokyo in men’s 61kg category.
In his new role in India, Pandoo will also work towards grooming junior talent and charting out a youth development coaching, education and refereeing programme. He will also put together a recovery management structure for the weightlifters.
Chanu was troubled by recurring back pain and spent a long time in the US for recovery before the Tokyo Olympics. The 27-year-old will have her task cut out this year in a busy season with three major events in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships to pick from.
“It will be a more athlete-centric approach. We have to see the role of physios, do we need a biomechanist? Do we need good recovery management principles? How much load an athlete is taking and how much recovery is needed so that they get the best out of training,” Pandoo, 46, said.
Indian weightlifting is notorious for doping incidents and Pandoo said he wants to a strong anti-doping programme in place too.
“Unfortunately, not only in India, but in other parts of the world our sports have been linked to doping. I firmly believe that it is possible to make high class athletes without doping, with a solid anti-doping programme. We have done it in Indonesia,” he said.
“Sometime coaches are greedy. They want their athletes to perform. We have to make them understand that you have to make them understand to train cleanly and smartly. We have to monitor them closely. We have to educate the athletes on the side effects of doping. We have to see how peaks of certain athletes are shooting up. If we have doubts, we have to do some investigation, so there will be a whole lot of ideas discussed and put through with regards to this (doping) with the SAI and IWLF.”
Widespread doping in weightlifting is one of the reasons why the sport is staring at an uncertain future in the Olympics. Weightlifting has been dropped as a priority sport from the Paris programme and talks are on to restructure it so that there are four less medal categories at Paris compared to Tokyo.
Pandoo, who is a member of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) coaching and research committee, said they were waiting for a final word from the IOC.