As for Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, the magical figure of 90 is a symbol of optimisation of one’s potential for Olympics silver medallist Mirabai Chanu.
Mirabai’s best snatch performance is 88kg, achieved at the National Championships in Kolkata in 2020. Although the ace weightlifter has done several 110kg-plus clean-and-jerk performances (including her world record of 119kg at the Asian championships in Tashkent in 2020) in the last four years, she has not been able to touch the 90kg mark in snatch. According to several experts, a lifter’s snatch performance should be roughly around 80 per cent of the clean-and-jerk showing. By this estimate, Mirabai’s snatch lift should be well above 90kg.
Both Mirabai – who recorded 87kg in snatch and 115kg in clean and jerk to total 202kg and take the silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics last year – and National coach Vijay Sharma have been working on rectifying a technical issue that has restricted the champion lifter from maximising her snatch performance.
For Mirabai, there is not much competition in sight at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Her closest competitor, Stella Peter Kingsley of Nigeria, registered a total of 168kg to win the 2021 Commonwealth championships title late last year. The Indian is well ahead, having aggregated 191kg in her last showing at the Khelo India Ranking event (at Nagrota Bagwan in Himachal Pradesh) in June last. As her second consecutive gold medal in the Commonwealth Games looks almost certain, Mirabai will use the platform in Birmingham to test herself.
Even though Mirabai – who has been unsuccessful in her attempts to lift beyond 88kg in snatch in a competition at least on four occasions, including her latest effort of 89kg at the Khelo India Ranking event – has not set any particular target for herself in the Commonwealth Games, touching 90kg will be her priority.
“As I returned to training after the Olympics, I focused on the snatch technique. I did good training at Shilaru camp. A week before going to Khelo India, I had stiffness in my back. It impacted my training a bit. I was testing the change in technique and other things I had tried during the training. “Now I am fine. I will try to replicate what I am doing in the training. Here the competition is with myself. The way I am training, I should reach 90kg. Let’s see what happens on that day,” said Mirabai.
The former World champion in erstwhile 48kg (in 2017) is happy that the lifting contingent reached Birmingham a month prior to the event and got acclimatised to the conditions.
“The weather is different here. You need a week to adjust to the weather and time zone. It’s good that we came well ahead of the Games. We recovered well in time. Our training began here on June 30. Now there is no problem. Everything is good here, including the food. I eat as per the weather. The main challenge is keeping the mind healthy and taking care of your diet. These things change when you go out to another country, so one has to be mentally strong to adapt.”
For Mirabai, the Commonwealth Games is a preparatory event ahead of the important World championships in December.
Eye on World Championships
Other than the snatch mark of 90kg, Mirabai wants to maintain her current clean-and-jerk level of around 105kg at the Commonwealth Games.
“I do not have a target [for clean and jerk]. Whatever I can do, I will do. Now I am doing around 105kg. Depends on how the day is, how my body works that day. I will try to increase the clean-and-jerk mark and reach around my world record during the World Championships. Everybody knows that the Commonwealth Games is [an] easier [competition] for me. Here I will have to test myself and see how I can perform. I want to see where I can improve for the World Championships.” Other than being an elite event, the World Championships also assume significance as this will be the launching pad for Mirabai for her preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Notwithstanding her status in the Commonwealth Games, Mirabai does not want to be complacent in her third appearance in the mega event.
“I am not taking it easy, though. I will have to fight with myself. I do not think that the field does not have enough strong competitors. I think about what I have done so far and where I can improve. I will treat this like any other competition,” said Mirabai, who landed a silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Games and a gold in the 2018 Gold Coast Games in 48kg.
While getting ready for the Commonwealth Games in the relaxed and pleasant British summer, the diminutive police officer from Manipur is mentally ready in case the authorities come forward with any Covid related protocol for the Games. “There are not many Covid cases here. No one is wearing a mask. Good that there is no restriction. But there may be some restrictions after we move into the Games Village,” said Mirabai.
Even as she focuses on her own training, the 27-year-old, as a senior and the most decorated athlete of the 15-member Indian weightlifting side, is delighted to play the role of a mentor to the younger lot in the team.
“I have reached this level by watching my seniors and learning from them. I feel good when other lifters feel encouraged after training with me. Since we are a team, they keep asking me certain things about training and exercises, request me to have a look at their lifts and seek my feedback. I tell them whatever I have learnt. We interact during and after training. It’s a great feeling to note that they watch me and learn. Teamwork gives me happiness,” said Mirabai, while looking forward to a fine showing from the Indian lifters in Birmingham.
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