Olympic silver medallist lifter Mirabai Chanu, one of the biggest names at the 36th National Games, made light of a wrist injury to live up to the billing as she took the gold medal in the women’s 49kg weight class.
Mirabai took pride in being the flagbearer for Manipur and in her maiden National Games crown. In order to achieve that, Mirabai, a 48kg silver-medallist in 2015, had to overcome the odds of competing with a dodgy wrist and attending the opening ceremony on the eve of her competition for the first time in her life.
Mirabai, a former world champion who lifted 191kg to beat last edition’s 48kg champion and Statemate Sanjita Chanu by four kg, said, “I came to the Games without proper training. The effort was always to protect my wrist and that’s why I didn’t push too much. I wanted to win the gold for Manipur and test my endurance and confidence before the World Championships (in Colombia in December), which will be an Olympic qualifier for Paris 2024. I have never participated in the Asiad. I skipped the last edition (Jakarta 2018) because of a back injury. This time I am geared up to get a medal. For that, I am aiming to lift 90kg in snatch and 120kg in clean and jerk,” she said.
Besides Mirabai, several other weightlifters competed in the Games despite not being completely fit.
Achinta Sheuli, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist in men’s 73kg, was one such example. He produced a below-par performance of 295kg to come second behind N. Ajith. Ajith broke the clean-and-jerk National record with a performance of 174kg on his way to take the National Games title by totaling 315kg.
Achinta, who aggregated 313kg in the Commonwealth Games, said, “My coach is working on technical issues in my snatch. After the Commonwealth Games, I had some trouble between the hamstring and hips. I was undergoing rehab. With whatever training I did, I’m happy with my performance.”
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Harjinder Kaur (76kg) managed a bronze with a lift of 204kg, while Commonwealth Championships title winner Ajay Singh (81kg) did 314kg to lose to title winner Deepak Lather by one kg.
Commonwealth championships gold medallist Purnima Pandey performed way below her best but secured the +87kg gold with a total of 215kg.
Besides Ajith, Arunachal lifter Sambo Lapung (96kg) shone by conquering his love for fast food. He rewrote the clean-and-jerk record (198kg) and won the gold medal with an effort of 346kg.
While the conduct of the Games on a short notice, according to some experts, was the reason behind several poor performances, injuries to athletes and the close scheduling of the Asian Championships contributed to the absence of such well-known lifters as Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Gurdeep Singh, Harshada Garud and Jhilli Dalabehera.
The leading lifters of the country need to overcome the performance-related fatigue at the National Games and prepare well for the all-important World Championships in December.