Six clean lifts. Multiple records.
That’s what Mirabai Chanu managed on her way to what was expectedly an easily-managed gold medal at the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Thursday.
Chanu walked out to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ with the spotlight firmly on her, a world champion in 2017. Fully in the moment, Chanu was the ice-cool woman at the centre of it, the firm favourite for the top spot, in a class of her own.
That she was in a league of her own was established even before the event began. Her entry weight in the snatch section was 80 kilos, four more than her nearest competitor Roilya Ranaivosoa of Mauritius had managed in her three attempts.
Eighty was surpassed flawlessly. 84 was disposed of, as the national record and personal best of 85 kg, both set at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships in Anaheim. She stepped it up a notch, with the bar set at 86. That mark tumbled as well, with Chanu going into the clean and jerk section, with a lead of 8 kilos.
Not once, not twice, but thrice the Commonwealth Games record was broken.
(Read more: Catch up with all the events of day one on our live blog)
At the selection trials for Rio, Chanu, a silver medallist from Glasgow, had surprised one and all, managing 192 kilos at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. Her best would have been good enough for a silver at Rio, but disaster struck on the biggest stage of them all.
She fumbled in her first attempt at 82, and again at 84, heading into the second section, well below her personal best. The clean and jerk would prove to be her undoing, as she failed to land a clean lift at all, at 104 once and at 106 twice.
There was no fumbling today in the clean-and-jerk section, though. Foruth lift of the day: 103 kgs. Fifth lift: 107 kgs. Sixth lift: 110 kgs,
Three more times the Commonwealth Games record broken and as icing on the cake, a new Personal Best achieved.
After the competition, speaking to the Commonwealth Games official website, Mirabai would reminisce about the debacle in Rio, “I was devastated after not winning a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I made it my life mission to become the best in my sport.”
For a 21-year-old in peak form, such an incident could have had a demoralising effect on her. Chief coach Vijay Sharma had spoken of the Manipuri weightlifter ‘freezing on big occasions’ and her ability to beat competition hiccups would be her biggest obstacle.
Born in Imphal East, Chanu grew up practising at the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex. Mirabai’s inspiration was another lifter who had won three golds in Manchester 16 years ago, Kunjarani Devi.
Gold quest in Gold Coast
One-stop shop for CWG 2018 stories
While Chanu was her own biggest opponent tonight, it was not so in Anaheim in the World Championship last year. Mirabai went into the clean and jerk, second in the snatch standings behind Thailand’s Thunya Sukhchaoren. Tied at 107, Mirabai would break the deadlock with a 109, clinching the biggest win of her career.
Getting that win would take the monkey off her back, as her lifts in the clean and jerk showed. Straight, clean lifts would see her power through to the top of the podium.
As many congratulated Chanu using the words ‘expected’ and ‘favourite’, it was an Olympic hero who reminded everyone that sometimes going into the competition heavily backed could add pressure on a competitor’s mind and that such wins were often the toughest.
For favourites to push themselves, break the ceiling and then set new benchmarks are what the big stages are for. Mirabai did that and more tonight, ending up a 196 on the night and resounding victory by 26 kilos, shattering several Games’ records.
It also set the ball rolling for team India, and for Mirabai herself. With the Asian Games approaching, she has tougher competition ahead with the best of the continent vying for the prize. Four of the top five in the 48-kg category at the world championships were Asian.
Indeed, this performance would have fetched her silver in Rio, with gold a mere four kilos ahead. Surely, Tokyo 2020 must be where Mirabai’s self-professed ‘Road to redemption’ leads to. Gold Coast could be a mere transit point for Mirabai Chanu.