PATTAYA, Sept 17: Former champion Mirabai Chanu will look to repeat her 2017 gold-medal winning feat and seal an Olympic spot when she spearheads the Indian challenge at the World Weightlifting Championship, starting here on Wednesday.
The ace Indian weightlifter, who had won the gold in the 48kg category at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships, remains India’s brightest medal prospect but she needs to significantly step up her game to salvage hopes of a podium finish here.
Mirabai made a strong comeback from a lower back injury that had kept her out of action for nearly nine months post the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The 25-year-old, who jumped from 48kg to 49kg following the International Weightlifting Federation’s (IWF) decision to rejig weight categories, has logged personal bests at two of the three events that she has competed in this year.
In the Asian Championships, she lifted a personal best of 199kg (86kg+113kg) but missed out on the podium by a whisker.
China’s Zhang Rong also had the same total of 199kg (88kg+111kg) but was ranked higher, owing to a better snatch score.
In the last edition, Thai weightlifter Chayuttra Pramongkhol, who is currently embroiled in a dope scandal, had broken the World record in the women’s 49kg category by lifting 209kgs (89+120) to take home the gold, while the silver and bronze went for 208kg and 206kg, respectively.
This year Mirabai will be competing alongside 2018’s silver and bronze medal winners China’s Hou Zhihui, who is also the current world record holder in the 49kg category, and Jiang Huihua respectively.
The two Chinese weightlifters have logged an entry weight of 210kg, a whopping 10 kgs more than Mirabai’s 200kg. Ri Song-gum of North Korea and Dominican Republic’s Beatriz Piron have also set it at 200kg.
The diminutive Manipuri is aware of the competition posed by the Chinese and is working towards reaching the 210kg mark.
“I have lifted 203kg in training. My aim is 210kg but it has to be done slowly, hopefully till Tokyo I will be able to achieve it,” Mirabai told PTI.
National coach Vijay Sharma said Mirabai has to lift more than 200kg to put up a fight against the Chinese.
“The World Championship is the most important competition for us and we have to improve our total here. Mira’s target is 200 plus. We have to achieve 203kg-205kg target only then we can give a good fight to the Chinese,” he said.
Among the male lifters, all eyes will be on Youth Olympic Games gold medallist teenager Jeremy Lalrinnunga.
Men: Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), Achinta Sheuli (73 kg), Ajay Singh (81 kg).
Women: Mirabai Chanu (49 kg), Jhilli Dalabehera (45 kg), Sneha Soren (55kg), Rakhi Halder (64kg). – PTI