The 26-year-old is confident ahead of the biggest event of her career.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu is no stranger to Indian sports fans. The Manipuri weightlifter has been one of the bright young sportstars in the country during the last five years.
Having competed in several events and achieving numerous accolades, she is currently preparing for her second Olympic appearance this year and pushing herself to win India’s second medal in weightlifting at the Olympics.
The athlete is currently training in the USA with her coach and mentor, Dronacharya Award-winner Vijay Sharma. Both of them answered a few questions regarding her career as well as the upcoming Olympics.
Speaking of her baby steps into the sport, Mirabai Chanu recalled her time in Manipur. “I come from a state in India which is very famous for Sports and kids are all inclined to pick some sport. My family identified that I had a lot of strength as I used to pick firewood easily compared to my brother. That was how I got introduced to weightlifting.“ Mirabai Chanu said to Khel Now.
Vijay Sharma also feels that an early and disciplined start is the key to achieve success. He remarked, “Start early, Ensure you get the proper technical guidance from a young age. Train very hard and look after your body. With discipline, results will come. “
Since her introduction to the sport, Mirabai has come a long way. Competing in the 48kg category, she won the Silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games while claiming Gold in the 2018 edition as well as the 2017 World Championships.
The Indian weightlifter said, “These competitions are major milestones in the lead up to the Olympics. These are extremely high-pressure events where the best in the world compete. It is the ideal preparation for the Olympics. Doing well in Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships and World Championships gives an athlete lot of self-belief and confidence to handle the big stage.”
Rio disappointment and the comeback
Despite her success, there was also a period of unfortunate setbacks. Mirabai Chanu went into the 2016 Rio Olympics as a medal hopeful for India. However, the Khel Ratna Award winner stumbled in the clean and jerk section, failing to lift her weight during all three tries.
She recalled, “It was the most difficult period of my sporting career. Everyone had high expectations from me including myself. It was just not my day. Everyone helped me to remain focused and look forward to the upcoming competitions and keep working hard. They made me realise that I was young and had a long career ahead. “
Her hardwork and strong mentality finally paid off. Mirabai stunned everyone by claiming the world record in the clean and jerk section during the Asian Championships last month. She won the Bronze medal in the event held in Uzbekistan but more than medal it was her brilliant performance in the clean and jerk part that stood out.
She said, “It feels great! Immensely gratifying that in the 4-5 years post-Rio, all the hardwork that I have done under the supervision of my coach and the support of my team has finally paid off. This is just a stepping stone in my preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and shows that I am on the right track.”
On Tokyo Olympics
Mirabai’s endgame for the Tokyo Olympics is clear. She wants to become the second Indian weightlifter after Karnam Malleswari to win a medal for her country in the Olympics.
She remarked, “My goal is to win a medal for India. The preparation and training is still the same. There is more effort and motivation as I now have the experience of going to the Olympics.“
Coach Vijay Sharma’s influence
Mirabai Chanu also had fine words for her guide in her quest, Vijay Sharma. She said, “My coach has had the biggest influence on my sporting career and performances. He is the main reason why I have been able to improve my performance in every major competition in the last 2 years.”
“First I was able to break the 200 kgs barrier and then on improve further. He understands me very well and always has my best interest in all the planning he does. There is a lot of mutual trust between us which is very important for generation world-class performances.”
Vijay Sharma sees a lot of qualities in the player. These qualities are what helps her stand out during competitions. He said, “Mira has immense talent which is the first pre-requisite for success. What separates her from the rest is her work ethic and dedication to the process. She totally follows the process once we mutually agree on it and that dedication is very rare to see. Her work ethic, dedication in training and self-belief is admirable.”
“The training was affected significantly in 2020 when the pandemic hit for about four months. We lost a lot of ground. Fortunately, towards the latter part of the year, we were able to begin training again in full swing and now things are under control. The preparation for the Olympics is on track.” the coach concluded.