World Weightlifting Championships: Mirabai Chanu eyes Olympic berth

Mirabai Chanu will look to repeat her 2017 gold-medal winning feat and seal an Olympic spot when she spearheads the Indian challenge at the World Weightlifting Championships.

Mirabai Chanu has made a strong comeback from injury post the 2018 Commonwealth Games.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Since winning her World title in women’s 48kg two years ago, Mirabai Chanu has coped with different challenges to be among the front-runners for a medal in the World weightlifting championships starting in Pattaya on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old’s primary target will be to gather as many points as possible and get closer to a berth in 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Mirabai, who bagged a gold medal with an overall effort of 194kg in Anaheim, USA, moved up to 49kg following a reshuffle in weight categories. The Indian, who was suffering from a lower back issue, could not compete in the 2018 World championships – where Thai Chayuttra Pramongthol claimed the 49kg crown with a world record total of 209kg, beating Chinese Hou Zhihui by one kg.

Hou asserted her class by rewriting the World record with an aggregate of 210kg in February this year. She took the Asian title with 208kg in April, while North Korean Ri Song-gum (200kg) and another Chinese Zhang Rong (199kg) had claimed the silver and bronze respectively. Mirabai was fourth despite doing her personal best of 199kg (Zhang lifted 199kg first to finish on the podium).

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Even without defending champion Chayuttra, who is entangled in a doping controversy surrounding Thailand weightlifting, the competition will be tough. Asian champion Hou and last year’s Worlds bronze medallist Jiang Huihua have given entry weights of an identical 210kg, while three others, including Mirabai and Asian silver Ri and Dominican Republic’s Piron Elizabeth, have logged 200kg each.

Mirabai, who has done 203kg in practice, will be keen to achieve a 200-plus total in Pattaya.

“The main target is Olympic qualification. If Mira does the total we aim for – 202kg-203kg – on Thursday, then she can gather maximum points. Winning a medal is also possible,” said National coach Vijay Sharma.

Jhili Dalabehera, a World junior bronze medallist in 48kg and an Asian silver medallist in 45kg, can make the country proud in non-Olympic weight 45kg.

After Turkey’s Saziye Erdogan (180kg), Jhili is tied with five others on entry weight (170kg).

“In many years, we have a chance to get two medals in one edition of the Worlds,” said Sharma.

Even though Youth Olympics gold medal winner Jeremy Lalrinnunga does not a chance for podium finish, he will give his best to brighten the prospects of reaching the Olympics.

“We are concentrating on Jeremy. If he does 305kg, then he can get some valuable points and get into the continental ranking for Olympic qualification,” said Sharma.