Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Mirabai Chanu is a medal away from becoming the first Indian weightlifter to win two Olympic medals. The Tokyo 2020 silver medallist says success at Paris Olympics will depend on how well she manages to keep herself injury free and improve technical nitty-gritties as competition in the 49 kg division is going to be very tough this time.

Mirabai, the only Indian weightlifter to qualify for Paris 2024, said the period between now and August 7, the day when the weightlifting competition will start in Paris, will be dedicated to managing all the muscles in her body and improving technique to lift at least 90 kg in snatch. Mirabai’s personal best in snatch is 88 kgs, an effort that helped her win the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham with a combined lift of 201 kg that included a 113 kg in clean and jerk.

Paris 2024 will be Mirabai Chanu’s third Olympics. After a horror debut at Rio 2016, the Manipuri, pushing 30, made impressive comebacks with sterling shows at global competitions. Mirabai became the first lifter in 22 years to become a World Champion in 2017. The gold at Commonwealth Games in 2018 in Gold Coast followed and after narrowly missing a medal at the 2019 World Championship, Mirabai created history at the 2020 Asian championships in China. In clean and jerk, Mirabai lifted 119 kgs at Ningbo, China. It was a world record!

Injuries have been Mirabai’s constant partner. Post the historic silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, she has been afflicted by numerous injuries. The hip injury at the Hangzhou Asian Games sidelined Mirabai for five months. Managing injuries with her trusted American physio Dr Aaron Horschig and coach Vijay Sharma, has been her biggest challenge. 

With Paris 2024 on the anvil, Mirabai has been very choosy about her competitions this year. In 2024, she took part in only one competition – the World Cup – and with a combined lift of 184 kilos, finished 12th. However, it was enough to secure a spot at Paris.

“After the Asian Games injury, the World Cup was my first competition. I was certainly apprehensive about picking up another injury. I didn’t want to spoil my Paris chances. So, yes, that injury fear was there. For me, injury management and staying stress free will be important. I have to do the things that helped me recover. Injuries and pain are companions for us. You never know when they will strike. We have to conquer them and Paris Olympics will tell me how well I have managed these aspects of the sport,” tells Mirabai.

Mirabai and her team will be off to Le Ferte-Milon in France in the first week of July and will have almost a month to ‘acclimatize’ ahead of the Summer Games. She says there is a direct relation between fitness and technique and every muscle plays a part in lifting weights. 

“Weightlifting is a sum of many parts. Lot of gym exercises are required as every body part plays it role. Certain muscles like the back, knee and shoulder have to be in perfect condition. Muscle strength matters a lot to lift weights over 200 kgs (that’s four times Mirabai’s body weight). And more importantly, I can’t skip training. If I leave training for a day, it will take a week for me to recover and bring my muscles to perfect state. 

“If there is no strength or endurance, one can’t lift weights. It’s a tough process and one can’t afford to relax. Let’s say to lift 85 kg in snatch, one has to lift 50 kgs at least 100 times and then gradually scale up,” said Mirabai, while explaining her training schedule at the world-class facility in Patiala.

Injuries have made Mirabai more determined. The star weightlifter, for whom the sports ministry, through the Target Olympic Podium Scheme and other athlete funding programmes, has spent over Rs 2.7 crores for her training in the Paris cycle, laments for not having an Asian Games medal in her cabinet. Five months away from weightlifting has actually made her more combative. Winning another Olympic medal remains her only target.

“An Asian Games medal seems to be jinxed, I definitely want to win one and I was just one lift away from getting one in Hangzhou when the injury came. Even after so much preparation, I got injured. That hurts for sure but at the same time, injuries make me determined to come back stronger for India. So never had negative thoughts to quit.

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“For any weightlifter to take part in two Olympics is a big thing. To compete at the world level is tough. Like Tokyo, I will again count on the prayers of all Indians and of course, it’s going to be God’s wish on that day in Paris. It will be a dream for me and my family to win a second Olympic medal but I also know that even the best of preparation can fail. So, let’s hope for the best,” signed off Mirabai.

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