Mirabai Chanu completes Olympics redemption with weightlifting silver in Tokyo

Mirabai Chanu won the silver medal in the 49kg category at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday. This is India's first weightlifting medal from the Olympics after more than 20 years.

Mirabai’s medal made her the second Indian woman after P. V. Sindhu to win an Olympic silver.   -  PTI

Mirabai Chanu found it hard to believe that she won India’s first medal of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, but the Manipuri weightlifter is clear on how she’s going to celebrate – with some “balle balle” and a pizza!

Mirabai’s medal made her the second Indian woman after P. V. Sindhu to win an Olympic silver and the second Indian weightlifter, after Karnam Malleswari in 2000, to stand on the podium at the Games.

“It felt like a dream. I forgot where I was and that I was standing at the Olympics podium. Everything blurred out for a bit. I realised I had won the silver only when they called out my name and I felt the medal around my neck!” she said, grinning behind her mask.

As it happened| Mirabai Chanu wins Silver in weightlifting, India opens medal account in Tokyo

Mirabai has battled challenges aplenty on her path to the medal and had an unexpected hiccup to deal with on the eve of her Tokyo Olympics campaign – she got her period. Her coaching camp did lose some sleep but did not panic. They had consulted a gynaecologist in the USA ahead of the Games to prepare for such a situation and it was business as usual for Mirabai as she pushed the discomfort aside to clinch the silver.

Mirabai showed no signs of weakness on the lifting platform. If anything, she seemed possessed, her eyes fixated on the plate-stacked bar and only one thing on her mind – to win a medal.

Donning a red scrunchie, one that matched the colour of her outfit, she took her time for every lift, not overawed by the occasion.

Mirabai showed no signs of weakness on the lifting platform.   -  GETTY IMAGES


Mirabai’s coach Vijay Sharma revealed they had scaled down her starting weight to reduce the load on her body. “We were going to start with 86kg in snatch and 113 in clean and jerk but decided to start at a slightly lower weight so that we could be safe. We planned to scale up once the competition cleared up,” he said.

READ| Mirabai Chanu on Tokyo weightlifting medal: I am here because of Rio failure

Mirabai breezed through the snatch with lifts of 84kg and 87kg on her first two attempts. She failed in her third attempt of 89kg, which would have been her personal best. China’s Hou Zhihui, her main rival, set a new Olympic record of 94kg.

Then came the clean-and-jerk category, Mirabai’s weakness at one point but her strength now. She had set a new world record of 119kg at the Asian Championships this April. She failed at all three lifts in Rio in 2016, but she rewrote those painful memories with two strong lifts here. She lifted 110kg on her first attempt and broke into a wide smile, assured of a medal as the USA’s Jourdan Delacruz failed in all her clean-and-jerk efforts. The Indian hoisted 115kg on her second attempt before failing at 117kg. But it did not matter as the 26-year-old had already created history.

“I am ecstatic! I am so happy to win the silver. I tried really hard for the gold, but I am happy with the silver. I failed in 2016 and learnt a lot from that experience and where I have to improve and that is what got me here,” she said, beaming from ear to ear.

Mirabai said she called her mates in the national camp back home right after the medal ceremony. “The gang in Patiala called me and were dancing,” she said.

While conceding that the silver medal was quite heavy – if a weightlifter says so, you best believe it – she also talked about her Olympic earrings. “I got these made after the 2018 Commonwealth Games to remind me of my goal of winning a medal at the Olympics. I am glad I got to wear them today.”

With the medal in her bag, it is time to celebrate. “Among all the varieties of junk food, I like pizza the most. And I’ve noticed since we got here that they have been serving pizzas at the Games Village. I’ve been eyeing the pizzas all along and I can finally eat one now.

Mirabai Chanu

Age: 26

State: Manipur

Family: Father (Kriti), Mother (Tombi), two brothers and three sisters

Awards: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Padma Shri

Achievements: Gold: Women’s 48kg, World championships, Anaheim, USA, 2017; Women’s 48kg, Commonwealth Games 2018, Gold Coast; Silver: Women’s 49kg, Tokyo Olympics, 2020; Women’s 48kg, Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, 2014; Bronze: Women’s 49kg, Asian championships, Tashkent, 2021.

-Mirabai is the second Indian lifter to win an Olympic medal, first lifter to get a silver in the Olympics.

-She is the second Indian woman to get an Olympic silver medal after P.V. Sindhu.

-She has won the 17 individual medal for India in the Olympics since 1900.

-Her initial coach is L. Anita Chanu, at Khuman Lampak training centre in Imphal

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