For Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, the upcoming Asian weightlifting championship starting April 18 will be more than just an international competition.
For her, the Ningbo (China) meet will be yet another attempt to break the shackles of pain, which have often come as a speed-breaker in her career.
“I have set myself few goals for the Asian championship, the biggest being the attempt to lift 200-kg plus. In the recent past, I have been doing it in training under coach Vijay Sharma in Patiala and there is no reason why I won’t be able to do it in China. That could a turning point in my career,” Mirabai told IANS.
Originally a lifter in the 48-kg category, Mirabai shifted to the 49-kg section after the international body decided to rejig the weight categories in both men’s and women’s competition for the Olympics and other world-level meets. The Manipur girl now hopes to win a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the new category.
A world champion in 2017 in Anaheim, USA, the 24-year-old is already a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and the Padma Shri. But luck had not been on her side always — an injury in May 2018 saw her being sidelined for eight months.
“I have fully recovered from that injury, but I vividly remember those depressing days. When I was injured and going through the rehabilitation period, I used to sit alone and cry. Nothing was going right for me, the recovery was slow. I did not know whether I would ever make a comeback.
“Sitting in my room, I could hear the sound of other lifters training and my eyes used to be full of tears. Thankfully, my coach Vijay Sharma and my family stood firm behind me. Otherwise, I would not have been lifting again,” said Mirabai.
“Disappointments have struck me often but I have always overcome them. In 2016 Rio Olympics, I knew I was good enough to win a medal, but I failed. I won’t commit the same mistake in Tokyo after I qualify for it,” she added.
Her personal best in the 48-kg category came in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast when she lifted 196-kg to win the gold. Mirabai thinks the Asian meet will be her next step to achieve the bigger goal.
“The China meet will be extremely tough, but I am confident. Due to rearrangement of weight categories, several lifters from 53-kg have also joined the 49-kg category. If you look at the world championship results, you will find that a 200-kg plus lift is must for anyone who is hoping to win a medal.
“Given the standard of competition, Asian championship is like a world meet. Lifters from China, Thailand and Korea will be my biggest competitors. But I am not afraid. The gold medal I won in the EGAT Cup in Thailand a couple of months back has added to my confidence. A good performance and a podium finish will be my aim when I board the flight to China,” said Mirabai.