Road to Rio: Weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu has potential to be Karnam Malleswari’s successor
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu has both the potential and the right guidance to make a mark at the Olympics and change the face of Indian weightlifting.
Name: Saikhom Mirabai Chanu
Discipline (sport): Weightlifting
Category: 48 kg Women
Qualification: Chanu earned her spot at Rio in the 48kg category by winning the silver medal in the selection trials held in Patiala.
Strengths: She was the best finisher among women competitors across all weight categories during the selection trials. This remarkable performance would have been enough to win a bronze at the London Olympics and will certainly make Chanu recognise her chances of clinching a medal at Rio.
Past Olympic performance: Debut
Past record (best performances): Silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Gold medal in the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati in 2016
Prospects: Chanu has both the potential and the right guidance to make a mark at the Olympics and change the face of Indian weightlifting.
There is no doubt that Mirabai Chanu deserved her spot in the Rio Olympics. She created a new national record, twice, while claiming her Olympic berth. She broke the 12-year-old national record, originally held by her coach and veteran weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, by lifting the largest total in the 48 kg category.
Her qualifying lift would have been the fourth best lift of the year, had it been recorded at an international competition. It would have also been enough for Chanu to clinch a bronze at the London Olympics, according to a report by the Indian Express. These numbers prove how high her chances are at her first ever Olympic appearance.
The 22-year-old from Manipur shows immense promise and was the best finisher among women competitors across all weight categories in the qualifiers. However, she finished seventh in the 2016 Asian Championship, which shows that she still has a lot to catch up with.
A major advantage for Chanu is the fact that she trained by Kunjarani Devi, one of the most decorated Indian sportswomen in weightlifting.
“Mirabai is one of those lifters that you get once in a generation,” her mentor told Indian Express. “She was always willing to work hard and wasn’t someone who would look to get away when she thought no one was looking.”
Kunjrani is confident that Mirabia has the potential to win accolades for the country as she age on her side. “She stays around her competition weight even during the off season. That means she can lift heavy during training and she will still be able to recover and not get injured,” she added.
The Indian Weightlifting Federation also has their fingers crossed about the weightlifter’s prospects. “If Mirabai Chanu can improve her performance by a couple of kilograms in next one-and-a-half months, she would stand a good chance of a podium finish at the Rio Games.” IWLF vice-president Sahdev Yadav was quoted as saying by PTI.
One of India's individual Olympic medals came from weightlifting when Karnam Malleswari won the bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. However, other than that, women weightlifters from India are yet to gain prominence at major events and Chanu has the potential to be the one to change the face of the sport in India. With age on her side, and the advantage of good guidance and infrastructure, Chanu is one of the players to watch for at Rio 2016.
With inputs from agencies
“I am confident of challenging the Chinese. At the end of the day, you have to just lift weights. The absence of North Korea will be a definite help, and I am confident of making up for my non-performance in Rio and return with a medal,” Chanu said.
Hubbard is aiming to make New Zealand's Tokyo Olympics squad to contest the women's +87kg category, an event in which she is currently ranked 16th in the world.
"I don't want a silver in the Olympics, I want gold," declared the world record-breaking lifter during an interview with PTI.