Asian Weightlifting C’ship: Mirabai Chanu to spearhead India's challenge

The 24-year-old weightlifter will compete in the 49kg category.

File Photo: Mirabai Chanu aims to better her personal best — 196kg — in the 49kg category.   -  C. V. Subrahmanyam

Mirabai Chanu, the former world champion, will spearhead India’s challenge at the Asian Weightlifting Championship that begins here on Saturday. Mirabai will be competing in the 49kg category from 48kg following the International Weightlifting Federations’s rejig of weight categories.

She has made a strong comeback after having suffered a lower-back injury that kept her out of action for nearly nine months. In February, 2019, at the EGAT Cup, she lifted 82kg in snatch and 110 kg in clean and jerk to clinch the gold medal. For Mirabai, the tourney was the first of the six Olympic qualifying events. In order to secure a place on the podium here, she will have to significantly better that performance.

She will have potent competitors. Chayuttra Pramongkhol, the weightlifter from Thailand, had lifted 209kg (89+120) in the 49kg category to clinch the gold at the World Championship in 2018. At the Championship, the other medallists — Hou Zhihui and Jiang Huihua — lifted 208kg (93+115) and 206kg (92+114) respectively.

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Mirabai is aware of the competition that awaits her and is working towards bettering her personal best of 196kg here. “Mira’s aim for the Olympics is 210 kgs. In the Asian Championship we aim to go above the 196kg mark,” National coach Vijay Sharma told PTI.

Among male weightlifters, India’s hopes will be on Jeremy Lalrinnunga, the gold-medallist at the Youth Olympic Games, as Sathish Sivalingam, the Commonwealth Games champion, has pulled out of the tourney owing to performance troubles. “Sathish and R. V. Rahul haven’t travelled to China. They won’t be participating in the Championship because their performance has not been up to mark,” Sharma said.

Jeremy, aged 16, has added weight to transition from 62kg to 67kg to abide by the revised weight categories set by the IWF. At the EGAT Cup, Jeremy had won the silver medal, lifting 131kg in snatch and 157kg in clean and jerk. Here, he would again be eyeing a podium finish.

Other Indians participating include Vikas Thakur (96kg), the silver medallist at the Commonwealth Games, and Ajay Singh (81kg), the bronze medallist at the Asian Youth Championship and the Junior Weightlifting Championship. Ajay had finished fifth in the 77kg category at the Asian Games in 2018.

Jeremy Lalrinnunga won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018. Photo: OIS/IOC

 

While none of the athletes will be able to qualify for the Olympics from this tournament alone, a good performance at the gold-level Olympic qualifying event will bolster their chances of making it to the Tokyo Games in 2020. “Our aim is to keep improving our total at every event we participate,” Sharma declared.

The qualification process for the Olympics in 2020 is based on the performances of the weightlifters in six events over a period of 18 months. The four best results, out of the six, will be considered. Every athlete also needs to participate in a gold-level event alongside either a gold-level event or a silver-level event during this time.

Squad
  • Men: M Raja (61 kg) , Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), Achinta Sheuli (73 kg), Ajay Singh (81 kg), Vikas Thakur (96 kg), Pradeep Singh (102 kg) Gurdeep Singh (+101 kg).
  • Women: Mirabai Chanu (49 kg), Jhilli Dalabehera (45 kg), Swati (59kg), Rakhi Halder (64kg).