Patiala: It will not be surprising if diminutive Mirabai Chanu stands on the podium, with a beaming smile, after winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on July 30.
After all, she enters Birmingham, as title favourite.
Chanu’s personal best is 207 kg (88 kg + 119 kg), which is much better than the best effort of Stella Kingsley from Nigeria, who will be her closest rival and has hit only 168 kg (72 kg + 96 kg) so far .
Chanu’s legend has only grown since the last edition of the CWG. She has added an Olympic silver, an Asian Championship bronze and a world record to her cat.
Unsurprisingly, she admitted that she herself will be her real competitor in Birmingham and not her rivals.
“CWG will be easy for me. I will fight with myself,” said Chanu, who already has a silver (2014) and a gold (2018) at CWG.
“There isn’t much competition in CWG, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition. I have to give my best performance considering future tournaments,” she said during a candid talk at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NIS).
Since there will be no competition, Chanu has bigger goals in mind.
She is eager to rewrite her own clean and jerk world record of 119 kg.
“I’m thinking of trying 120kg in the CWG.”
The former world champion is also looking to break the long-awaited 90kg mark in the snatch section, which she confesses has become a kind of mental block.
“Yes (it has become a mental block). We planned to lift 91 kg or 92 kg at the CWG. Hopefully it will happen.”
But lifting almost twice your body weight is easier said than done, especially when Chanu is still struggling with a shoulder imbalance.
Earlier this month, she failed to improve on her grab lift as she was unable to lift 89kg twice during a domestic event due to her back.
“My back became stiff (tight) 2-3 days before departure. The journey to Nagrota was also five hours. We went from Patiala to Chandigarh a day before the tournament and then took a flight from Chandigarh which was also late. So the back got tighter.”
Chanu is aware of her weakness in snatch and has worked to refine her technique.
“I didn’t get over 88 kg. That’s the weight I set. But in terms of training I am now better placed than at the Olympics.”
“To lift 90kg in a competition, we set the weight between 80-90kg, which we lift consistently every day. It’s not like we lift 90 kg every day,” she explains.
Her personal best of 88 kg is 8 kg less than Tokyo gold medalist, China’s Hou Zhihui’s world record lifting of 96 kg.
“I changed my jerking technique. In jerks, when standing up, the toes, back and shoulder should be in line. Back and shoulders are very important, they must be able to move quickly. Previously my movement was not synchronized. Now I have changed it.”
Chanu admitted she feels compelled to make up for her grappling weakness by lifting more in clean and jerk.
“Yeah, I feel like if not one, then I need to improve on the other. To reach 96 kg it will take some time and it will be a bit difficult for me. †
“93kg-94kg I can reach. If I do well in clean and jerk, I can get the same total (as the Chinese) or even more.”
†Will wear my Olympic earrings at CWG†
Chanu, who will compete for her third CWG medal, will once again wear her gold earrings in the shape of Olympic rings, which stole the show at the Tokyo Games.
The earring was a gift from her mother, who had sold her own jewelry for the Rio Games, hoping it would bring her daughter good luck. And luck it brought.
“I will wear those earrings at the Commonwealth Games. They brought me luck in Tokyo,” Chanu said, grinning from ear to ear.
Ups and downs in life
After winning silver at Tokyo Games, Chanu heartily congratulated the truck drivers who gave her free rides to her training academy in Imphal, about 30 km from her village.
“I found all the truck drivers and because of Corona they were all at home,” Chanu looks back.
“They were really happy. I saw them and I thought of those days when they kept blowing the horn of their truck and I ran to get a lift. When I think about it, I remember all the difficulties I had to go through to get here. But what to do, life is a cycle, kabhi upar kabhi neeche†
Waiting anxiously for Asian Games
The Asian Games now remains the only major ticket event where Chanu has yet to stamp her authority.
Chanu had missed the previous edition due to a back injury. And the wait for a medal in the continental event has increased as this year’s Asiad has been postponed indefinitely.
“The Asian Games are the only medal left. That’s what I want now.”
“On the one hand, it is good that it has been postponed. On the other hand, it will now be held closer to the Olympics. I have time to train. But now it will be held alongside other Olympic qualifiers which means I will have to be in competition during that period. †
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