Former Olympics bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari on Saturday said weightlifter Mirabai Chanu has learnt from her 2016 experience in Rio de Janeiro and will return with a medal from the Tokyo Games.

Former world champion Mirabai is one of India’s leading medal contenders at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I am expecting Mirabai Chanu to perform very well at the Olympics this year. She learned a lot at the last Olympics, and I am sure she will win a medal this year,” said Malleswari, who finished on the podium at Sydney 2000 in women’s 69kg.

The first woman to win an Olympic medal, Malleswari said junior weightlifters are getting more opportunities to participate in international event now than 20 years ago. In 2018, Jeremy Lalrinnunga became India’s first gold medallist in the Youth Olympics history when he lifted a total weight of 274 kg to clinch the top spot on the podium in the men’s 62 kg category in Buenos Aires.

“Now there are a lot of competitions for the weightlifters in India. There are youth, junior and senior weightlifting competitions. When we were in the junior category, we didn’t go for any international tournaments,” Malleswari said.

“Now athletes have a chance to participate at the Youth Olympics as well. Only in the last ten years, junior athletes from India have started to go for international tournaments. So, this exposure has helped Indian weightlifters grow in India,” she added.

After successfully hosting the Khelo India Youth Games in January, the Indian government has decided to organize the Khelo India University Games in Bhubaneswar from February 22 to March 1 and Malleswari believes that Indian athletes will get better if they play more tournaments.

“The more tournaments the athletes get to participate, the better it is for them. When we were training, we used to work hard the entire year and get to take part in just one national championship and one international championship,” she said.

“In case we couldn’t do well in those one or two competitions then all our hard work was of no use. So the Khelo India University Games will definitely help athletes grow in the country.”