A historic silver medal and a radiant smile were not the only eye-catching things about Mirabai Chanu on Saturday, her gold earrings shaped like Olympic rings were as striking, a gift from her mother who sold her own jewellery for them five years ago.
The hope was that the earrings would bring her “good luck”. It didn’t happen in the Rio 2016 Games but Chanu made the little sacrifice count in Tokyo on Saturday with a silver medal and Saikhom Ongbi Tombi Leima has struggled to stop her tears from flowing ever since.
“I saw the earrings on TV, I gave them to her in 2016 before the (Rio) Olympics. I have made it for her from the gold pieces and savings I have so that it brings luck and success,” Leima told PTI from her home in Manipur where a considerable number of relatives, friends and well-wishers gathered to watch Chnau script history in Tokyo.
“I was in tears seeing it and also during the moment she won the medal. Her father (Saikhom Kriti Meitei) was also in tears. Tears of joy. All her hard work has led to the success.”
Chanu ended India’s 21-year wait for a weightlifting medal at the Olympics by clinching a silver medal in the 49kg category to open the country’s account on Saturday.
The 26-year-old lifted a total of 202kg (87kg+115kg) to better Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
With this, she exorcised the ghosts of the 2016 Games where she had failed to log a single legitimate lift.
The Chanu household at Nongpok Kakching village, around 25km from state capital Imphal, visitors had been trickling in since Friday despite the curfew caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chanu has six siblings, three sisters and two brothers.
“She had told us she will win gold or at least a medal. So, everybody was waiting for it to happen. Many of our relatives who lived far came last evening. They stayed overnight with us,” Chanu’s mother said.
“Many came this morning and the people of the locality also thronged. So, we have brought out the television to the verandah and around 50 people were there to watch Mirabai in Tokyo. Many sat at the front courtyard. So, it was a kind of festival.
“A lot of journalists have also come. This is something we have never experienced.”
Chanu was on video call from the weightlifting arena in Tokyo before her event began and she had sought blessings from her parents.
“She (Chanu) rarely comes home (because of training) and so we have made a whastapp group to communicate with each other,” said Chanu’s cousin Aroshini.
“This morning, she had a video call with all of us and she bowed down and sought blessings from her parents.
“She said ‘bless me to win a gold medal for the country’. They gave their blessings. It was a touching moment.”
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