Mirabai Saikhom Chanu failed to clinch a medal at the World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand, but achieved what no other Indian woman weightlifter has been able to accomplish so far – lift a total that was more than four times her body weight. Mirabai came agonisingly close to a podium finish before settling for a fourth-place finish in the 49kg category. In the process, she became the first woman weightlifter from the country to breach the magic mark of 200kg –she lifted a total of 201 (87 in snatch and 114 in clean and jerk) in her weight category. She surpassed her personal best of 199kg, which she had achieved at the Asian championships in Ningbo,China this April.
China’s Jiang Huihua (total 212 – 94 snatch and 118 clean and jerk) won the gold medal, while silver went to another Chinese lifter, Hou Zhihui (total 211 – 94 snatch and 117 clean and jerk) and North Korea’s Song Gum (total 204 – 89 snatch and 115 clean and jerk) settled for bronze. Mirabai’s fourth finish in the 33-strong field did a world of good to her Tokyo Olympics qualification chances. The Pattaya Worlds is a qualifying meet and performances in the event will hold much significance when global rankings in each weight category will be released by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) at the end of the qualification cycle in April 2020.
Mirabai is at present ranked third in the world in her 49kg category and she is almost certain to travel to Tokyo being the country’s No.1 in her weight division. A country (read Indian weightlifting body) can nominate only one weightlifter in each qualified weight category for the Olympics and there is little doubt that entry would be of Mirabai. In Olympics, each weight category will have a total of 14 lifters (13 those who will qualify based on world rankings and one from the host nation i.e. Japan).
Mirabai’s coaches have planned two more competitions in coming months, which will fall in the Olympic qualification cycle, to enable her to continue in the same position. “Lifting a total in excess of 200kg is generally considered a safe mark for a lifter since not many, apart from Chinese and Koreans, have been able to breach that figure in this weight category,” India’s chief national weightlifting coach Vijay Sharma said.
“It’s been just a few months since Mirabai has started competing again. She had suffered a career-threatening back injury in 2018, which kept her out of the arena for nine months. We don’t want to rush her into heavy training. She recently lifted a total of 203kg during a training session in Patiala and we wanted her to lift more than 200kg at the Worlds. Our focus is to get her lift a total of 210kg closer to the Tokyo Olympics,” said Sharma.