Olympics

Mirabai Chanu leads Indian challenge

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After an incredibly successful Commonwealth Games, where India’s 15-member strong weightlifting contingent walked away with 10 medals from Birmingham, they faced their first major event in the form of the World Weightlifting Championships. Originally meant to be held in Chonqqing, China, the competition moved to Bogota, Colombia after complications due to COVID-19. India takes a small contingent of just five weightlifters, with the event scheduled to begin today.

Wait, just four? Who are the big names missing?

Head coach Vijay Sharma noted injuries have played apart, saying « Many lifters from the CWG squad are nursing injuries, so we have selected the four lifters who are fit. »

Jeremy Lalrinnunga, fresh from his CWG gold medal, is injured for the Worlds with a thigh and hamstring injury. Jeremy lifted a total of 300 kg (140 snatch, 160 C&J) to win his gold, but in the 67kg category at the Worlds there are 18 weightlifters who are starting at a larger entry weight. The 20-year-old is aiming for the 73 kg category at the 2024 Paris Olympics, where only two of the 31 competitors at the Worlds are starting at weights below 300kg.

In all likelihood, even if Jeremy were present in either category at the Worlds, a medal would have been quite the difficult task. He does still retain the world record in the Youth World Championships though (67 kg).

So… who are the four representing India?

Mirabai Chanu, 49 kg W

Bindyarani Devi, 55kg W

Achinta Sheuli, 73 kg M

Gurdeep Singh – 109+ kg M

*Rishikanta Singh is in the start list for the 61 kg M category

All four won medals in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, with Mirabai and Sheuli winning gold, while Bindyarani won silver and Gurdeep won bronze.

So we can expect medals from all of them?

In a word, no. The Commonwealth field isn’t exactly the strongest and only Mirabai features in the A-List.

Bindyarani moved up a weight category from 55kg in the CWG games to 59 kg, and her entry weight (200kg) is in the D-List – there are 36 weightlifters starting at weights higher than hers. It’s also a highly-contested field, with two Olympic champions in Maude Charron from Canada (moving down from 64 kg) and Tokyo gold medalist in 59 kg, Kuo Hsing-Chun of Chinese Taipei.

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Curiously, the highest starting weight (240 kg) comes from 21-year-old Chinese weightlifter Luo Shifang, who achieved a bit of internet fame after lifting 150 kg in a training split jerk (10 kg more than the current record).

Bindyarani Devi will feature in the women’s 59 kg (D) – Thursday, 8th December – 7:30 pm IST onwards

Achinta Sheuli’s winning lift of 313 kg in the CWG games will be dwarfed by the entry weights of 26/31 competitors in his category. Sheuli himself is opting for an entry weight of 310 kg, placing him in the C-List.

Tokyo gold winner Zhiyong Shi of China has moved up to the 81 kg weight class, but silver medallist Julio Ruben Mayora Pernia of Venezuela still remains, with an entry weight of 345 kg.

Achinta Sheuli will feature in the men’s 73 kg (C) – Friday, 9th December – 10:00 pm IST onwards

Gurdeep Singh lifted a total of 390 kg in his bronze-winning effort at the CWG, but as his C-List presence indicates, 21 of the 27 competitors in the +109 kg category are starting with entry weights higher than his best in Birmingham. Gurdeep himself is starting at a modest 350 kg.

Not the case for Rio and Tokyo Olympic gold medallist, Lasha Talakhadze of Georgia, who’s starting at 465 kg. Akbar Djuraev of Uzbekistan, who won gold in Tokyo (109 kg) is moving up a weight category and competing in this field as well.

Gurdeep Singh will feature in the men’s +109 kg (C) – Friday, 16th December – 10:00 pm IST onwards

Surely Mirabai can work her magic?

Were she going all out, possibly. With this event kicking off the qualification cycle for the 2024 Paris Olympics, most lifters will have a long-term view. Only the 2023 World Championships (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and 2024 World Cup (Phuket, Thailand) are compulsory events if one has to qualify for the Olympics. The current World Championships are part of the five additional events, from which an athlete need participate only in three in order to score Olympic Qualification Ranking (OQR) points.

Mirabai was last seen in competitive action in the National Games earlier this year, where a wrist injury saw her take it relatively easy, lifting a total of 191 kg, a fair way short of her 201 kg CWG-winning effort in Birmingham. Having only just recovered from the injury, Mirabai might not risk a shot at her elusive quest for 90kg in snatch, which will place her at quite the disadvantage given the presence of Tokyo gold medallist Hou Zhihui of China, who is starting with an entry weight of 205 kg, like her compatriot Jiang Huihua. Nina Sterckx of Belgium, who set two junior world records in 55 kg, is moving a weight class down and starting with a weight of 202 kg.

It won’t be Mirabai vs Mirabai, that’s for sure.

Mirabai Chanu will feature in the women’s 49 kg (A) – Wednesday, 7th December – 03:00 am IST onwards

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