New Delhi: A new rule prevented India from changing the weight categories of its lifters for maximum benefit, but the country’s 15-strong contingent headlined Mirabai Chanuis still expected to return with a bag full of medals from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
The Commonwealth tournaments, be it the CWG or the Commonwealth Championships, have been a happy hunting ground for Indian weightlifters, who enjoy the absence of traditional superpowers like China and North Korea.
India finished as the top performing nation in the sport in the 1990, 2002 and 2018 editions. They are the second most successful country in the sport with 125 medals, including 43 gold medals, behind Australia (159), whose dominance is has suffered a dent in the last few editions.
Indian weightlifters reigned supreme in the 2018 Gold Coast Games, bringing home a rich roster of nine medals, including five golds. And again this year, all 15 lifters are able to achieve podium places.
However, only a handful of them are expected to strike gold.
To improve India’s chances of winning more gold medals in the women’s events, the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) and head coach Vijay Sharma planned to hire Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Chanu, a high-potential title contender, in the 55kg weight class. to place.
Jhilli Dalabehera and S Bindyarani Devi would compete in the 49kg and 59kg respectively, while Poppy Hazarika would have presented her challenge in the 64kg division.
But the submissions were rejected under a new rule that only the best-ranked lifter in a category qualifies for the CWG and if he/she withdraws, the next-best lifter will not be berthed, as was previously the case. .
This forced Chanu (49 kg), Bindyarani (55 kg) and Poppy (59 kg) to each drop a weight class, resulting in Jhilli missing the quadrennial event and no Indian representation in 64 kg.
During the Games, all eyes will no doubt be on Chanu, but while everyone else will strive to be on the podium, the former world champion, whose personal best in the women’s 49 kg stands at 207 kg (88 kg + 119 kg). ), a whopping 39kg more than the second best lifter in the field, winning the yellow metal is almost a certainty.
All she has to do is perform two legal lifts, one in the snatch and one clean and jerk, to win her third CWG medal. She doesn’t even need to bring her a game as her closest rival, Nigerian Stella Kingsley’s best effort yet is only 168kg (72kg + 96kg).
However, the 27-year-old, who already has a CWG gold and silver in her trophy cabinet, has set herself bigger goals. Chanu is expected to rewrite her clean and jerk world record of 119kg and is also eager to break the much anticipated 90kg mark in the snatch section.
“CWG is relatively easy for me, I will fight with myself. We planned to lift 91 kg or 92 kg at the CWG. Hopefully it will happen,” she told PTI in an interview last month.
Other Indian weightlifters are expected to face stiff competition from their Nigerian and Malaysian counterparts in the women’s and men’s events respectively.
Youth Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg) to win gold has improved significantly as Pakistani Talha Talib, the favorite to win the 67kg title, is suspended after testing positive for banned substances.
Jeremy, who has excelled at junior and youth level, is coming off a low back injury that marred his World Championship campaign last December and the extraordinarily talented 19-year-old will be eager to make a mark on the senior podium and a medal on his debut.
Two other title contenders are debutants Achinta Sheuli (73kg) and Ajay Singh (81kg). Both won gold at the Commonwealth Championships in December.
World Junior World Championship silver medalist Achinta, who has a personal best of 316kg (143kg + 173kg), will have to beat Malaysian Erry Hidayat, who is putting in the same effort as the Indian.
Ajay, on the other hand, will take his chances against his closest rival Kyle John Ryan Christopher Park Bruce of Australia, whose personal best is sixkg less than the Indian’s.
Aside from Chanu, the contingent also has previous CWG medalists in P Guruaja (61 kg), the seasoned Vikas Thakur (96 kg), who will compete for a third medal after winning silver and bronze respectively in the 2014 matches. and 2018, and Punam Yadav (76kg).
It will be an arduous task for the 2018 bronze medalist Gururaja to win the gold as he will have to compete against Gold Coast CWG 62 kg champion Muhammad Aznil bin Bidin of Malaysia, who has lifted eight kg more than the Indian on the Commonwealth Championships.
Thakur’s best shot appears to be bronze, as Canadian Boady Santavy and Cypriot hitchhiker Antonis Martasidis have a better overall bet than him.
It will be the first time India will field lifters in the plus weight categories in the form of Purnima Pandey (+87kg) and Gurdeep Singh (+109kg).
The CWG is arguably the easiest platform for the Indian lifters to win medals and the question is not if, but how much the Indian contingent is bringing back this time.
“Our goal is to win more medals than last time. Hopefully we can bring back 4-5 times gold,” Sharma said.
Women: Mirabai Chanu (49kg), Bindyarani Devi (55kg), Popy Hazarika (59kg), Harjinder Kaur (71kg), Punam Yadav (76kg), Usha Kumari (87kg), Purnima Pandey (+87kg).
Men: Sanket Sagar (55kg), Gururaja Poojary (61kg), Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), Achinta Sehuli (73kg), Ajay Singh (81kg), Vikas Thakur (96kg), Lovepreet Singh (109kg) , Gurdeep Singh (+109 kg) .
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