The weightlifter reflected on her silver and India’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

India opened its tally at the Tokyo Olympics, as 26-year-old Mirabai Chanu won the silver medal in weightlifting in the women’s 49kg category. This is India’s first medal in weightlifting since Karnam Malleswari’s bronze win back at Sydney 2000. The 26-year-old Manipuri athlete addressed the media after her medal win.

It was no surprise that Mirabai was ecstatic after her huge win. “I’m very happy that I’ve won the medal. The entire country was watching me & they had their expectations. I was a little nervous, but I was determined to give my best. I worked really hard for this,” she reflected.

Learnt a lot from Rio loss

Mirabai Chanu was also a part of the Indian contingent back at Rio 2016 but failed to win a medal. The 26-year old stated that the Rio loss had a huge role to play in her medal win in Tokyo. “My dream of winning a medal in the Olympics has come true today. The dream was also there in Rio Olympics. I worked hard for the Rio Olympics as well. But, it was not my day back then and therefore I failed to win a medal.

“I learnt a lot from that, my technique, my training, a lot of changes were made and I worked very hard. That also inspired me to achieve more in the future. So, that is why I achieved in Tokyo what I couldn’t in Rio by winning this medal.”

Message from the coach

On being asked what the message from her coach was in between the lifts, the Olympic silver medalist said, “The coach asked me to do exactly as we had prepared in training. There was no reason to worry about anything.

“I had to think of doing exactly what I have been training for. This was what was being said constantly, even during the warm-ups. Build a foundation, stick to the training and we would surely win a medal, that was what was being discussed from the beginning,” Chanu revealed.

Related: How Mirabai Chanu’s victory will relieve pressure off other medal hopefuls

Hopes to inspire more girls

Mirabai Chanu also stated that although not many girls in India are into weightlifting now, she hopes her win will inspire more people, especially girls to take up the sport. “I think things can change a lot after today. You do not find a lot of girls in weightlifting. I hope after today, more girls take on the sport and work hard so that the next competition that comes there are more and more girl participants. I hope they are inspired by watching me or us and I feel like more girls will work hard and come into weightlifting.”

The 26-year-old further added, “Most of the girls in India are not into sports. Firstly, I would like to tell the families that girls are not only for studies. We can go into sports and do something for India. Girls are also very strong. I would like to ask all the families, let the girls join sports, if they want to. Allow them to pursue their dreams. Allow them to come into sports, so that we can make India proud together.”

Thoughts of coach Vijay Sharma

Accompanying Mirabai was her long-time coach Vijay Sharma. The coach spoke about the pressure he had to face after the Rio disappointment. “After the failure in Rio, I was under a lot of pressure for sometime. There were lots of expectations from us even back then and we failed in a very important competition,” he conceded.

“The journey after that, we made a lot of changes. We changed the training pattern, we changed the training technique. And the results from the changes were visible from 2017, we won the world championship in 2017. We made a record in the Commonwealth Games of 2018, we won a medal in the 2019 World Championships. After that, we have been regularly growing and improving.

“We learnt from that setback that we have to be more disciplined and more determined. I worked with that lesson and Mira was there with me throughout. You can see that Mira has done nothing other than eat, sleep and train for five years. It took us almost two and a half years for Olympic qualifications. We have participated in an international event every three months. Overall, the result of that journey is that now we are here,” Sharma explained with pride.

The evolution of Chanu

The veteran also spoke on how Mirabai Chanu has evolved throughout the years. “As a team, I started working with Mira from 2014. There were a lot of other kids as well as we work in a group. What was different in Mira was her discipline and her determination. These are the characteristics that made me realize that she was special. Whatever she has achieved is because of her discipline, hard work and her determination.”

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