Mirabai Chanu: Improved my technique during injury layoff

The weightlifter did not touch the barbells for four months due to a back injury after securing the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year and consequently missed the Asian Games.

Mirabai Chanu won the national title in the 49kg class in Visakhapatnam on Friday.   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

Turning a demoralising back injury that prevented her from participating in the Asian Games into an opportunity to better her technique, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu has become more determined to achieve her Olympics dream.

Mirabai, who did not touch the barbells for four months due to the injury after securing the Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 48kg class last year, looked at the positive side instead of being bogged down by her layoff.

“My technique has got better after the injury. My load was less when I was recovering. At that time, I had focused on bettering my technique. After increasing load, you cannot work on your technique. It helped me in (the EGAT's Cup International Weightlifting Championships) Thailand (earlier in February). My clean and jerk is now around 110kg. I have done it on two-three occasions,” Mirabai told The Hindu after winning the national title in 49kg in Visakhapatnam.

“I did only rehab during those four months. It was frustrating. When we skip one week’s training, we feel like it is a big loss. Here, I did not do anything for four months.

“During the rehab, I feared if I increase load, the injury could recur. There was a huge mental block. So I went step by step – first fitness, then technique and then 60-70 per cent weightlifting.”

Donning a pair of earrings designed as the five Olympics rings, 24-year-old Mirabai – who had a forgettable outing at the Rio Olympics where she had three ‘no lifts’ in the clean and jerk – said she learnt a lot despite her loss in 2016.

“My mummy had gifted the earrings to me before the Rio Olympics. This is made of gold and I am now determined to take the gold medal in the Olympics.

“I had a chance to win a medal in Rio. It was my first Olympics and I was well prepared. I learnt how to handle yourself and give your best on a big stage. Sometimes we feel it’s different in competition and training, but actually it’s the same. One should not feel everyone is watching me, what happens if I don’t do well. One should focus on the weight kept to be lifted.”

Now, Mirabai is eager to make the most of the Asian Championships in April. “If I win this, I can gather maximum points, which will be easier to qualify for the Olympics,” she said.