Mirabai Chanu: The thought of the failed attempt in Rio did cross my mind in Tokyo

"The thought of the failed attempt in Rio did cross my mind. But I learnt a lot from that experience, put in the hard yards, and it ultimately resulted in a silver medal," Mirabai said at Sportstar's first-ever North East Sports Conclave in Guwahati on Friday.

Mirabai Chanu won India's first-ever weightlifting silver medal at the Olympics, after lifting a total of 202 kg in the women's 49 kg event at the Tokyo 2020 Games.   -  PTI

Mirabai Chanu won India's first-ever weightlifting silver medal at the Olympics, after lifting a total of 202 kg in the women's 49 kg event at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

After the disappointment of the Rio Olympics in 2016, where she managed just one clean lift in six attempts, the weightlifter eased the pain with a podium finish at Tokyo.

"The thought of the failed attempt in Rio did cross my mind. But I learnt a lot from that experience, put in the hard yards, and it ultimately resulted in a silver medal," Mirabai said at Sportstar's first-ever North East Sports Conclave in Guwahati on Friday.

"When I won the medal, it felt great because my hard work had finally paid off. I was flooded with telephone calls and congratulatory messages. My dream had come true," she added.

Asked what was going through her mind a day before her event, she said, "The entire country had pinned its medal hopes on me. There were lots of thoughts going through my mind - I had failed at Rio in 2016, so I was apprehensive about my performance in Tokyo. That said, I had been prepping for that one day for the last five years. There was pressure, yes, but I trusted my skills."

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Shortly after her return to India, an image of Mirabai thanking the truck drivers, who gave her a lift during her early training days, went viral. She explained the reason behind the gesture. "Ever since I started winning medals at international events, I wanted to extend my gratitude to everyone who had contributed to my success. But I couldn't find the time. I had the opportunity after Tokyo, so I made it a point to thank and seek the blessings of the truck drivers who had helped me along the way. They made sure I never missed a training session. They lived far away from my hometown, so my family and I asked around and tried to locate them. Due to covid 19, we couldn't find them all but those we could, I thanked them wholeheartedly."

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Mirabai hasn't changed a lot after her Tokyo heroics and said that the silver medal "motivates me to work harder. I can't cut myself slack just because I have won a medal at a big event. The aim is always to do one better at the next competition and bring more laurels for the country."

About the challenges of resuming training following a break, she said, "Weightlifting is the kind of sport where if you miss training for a day, it's difficult to make up. And I was away from training for a month after Tokyo, so it was hard initially."

Mirabai, who is now focused on winning a medal at next year's Asian Games, also talked about how Manipur and the North-East can produce more world-class athletes. "Everyone talks about how Manipur has been the cradle of women's weightlifting in the country. But in the past, there have been instances of athletes giving up on the sport because of a lack of facilities. Things are much better now... With better training facilities, types of equipment and nutrition in place, the entire North-East will produce world-class athletes," she said.

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