India’s only Olympic medal hopeful weightlifter, Mirabai Chanu’s main aim is to stay injury-free in the build-up to the final round of the qualifications in April where she targets to lift a personal best of 210 kilograms.
Having recovered fully from a back injury that forced her out of the 2018 Asian Games, the 2017 world champion has progressed gradually from a total of 199kg to 201kg, and in the Senior Nationals in Kolkata on Tuesday, she improved it to 203kg, thereby bettering her own national record.
“I tried 207kg but lost balance but I’m confident that I will be able to lift 210kg at the Asian Championships,” Chanu said after winning the women’s 49kg category gold.
“But the most important thing is to stay free from injury which is very common in our sport. So, I got to be watchful. It’s also about staying relaxed when there’s no training. I love listening music to relax. I also take sauna and steam bath three times a week for better performance,” she added.
Chanu is also keeping a close watch on her diet so that she keeps her weight in check ahead of the Asian Championships in Nur-Sultan from April 16 to 25, the final Olympic qualification.
“I eat boiled food and more of red meat,” Chanu, who had a disappointing campaign at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said. “I stay away from oil and spicy food. Pressure is always there when whole of India is expecting a medal. But I am happy that I have the chance to do something for India, so I will put my best foot forward.”
She is currently ranked fourth in the world behind the Chinese duo of Huihua Jiang (212kg) and Zhihui Hou (211kg), and Korean Ri Song Gum (209kg). A total of 13 lifters will make the cut for Tokyo Olympics in every category after the the Kazakhstan event.
Training at NIS Patiala national camp meant that Chanu has not gone home to Manipur for long and she misses her favourite dish Iromba, a curry made with fermented fish as an ingredient.
“I miss it but at the end of the day we are here to achieve something for our country and that’s the priority. I will visit my home once I achieve something big,” Chanu added.
National coach Vijay Sharma said his ward is on the right track for Tokyo Olympics.
“We missed two lifts, if she had cleared one (either in snatch or clean and jerk), we could have achieved the target. Our target in Kolkata was between 203-205kg,” Sharma said.
He added, “She was not at her peak from. It’s the pre-competition period. Our target was this only. We wanted to give a check and I think she is on right track.”
Chanu’s next target is to achieve 210kg in the Asian Championships.
“We have planned our journey as per our limits. We don’t want to rush things, keeping injuries in mind. But I’m strongly hopeful we can make it,” Sharma said.
On the Chinese challenge, he said: “They have been doing 210kg-plus for last four years. But we have gradually improved from 194kg and reached 203kg.”
He added, “The Chinese may have achieved 211kg-212kg in other competitions but at Olympic level, I think a gold will come in range of 207kg-210kg.”
He also hoped that Chanu will win India’s first gold in weightlifting since Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in Sydney 2000.
“It’s about making some minor adjustments and focus strongly on the fitness and power-strengthening ahead of the qualifying meet,” Sharma explained.
The national coach also spoke highly of the Youth Olympic champion Jeremy Lalrinnunga and said the target for the Mizo teenager is to qualify for the Olympics, before targeting a medal in 2024 Paris Olympics.