Senior weightlifters including defending champion Mirabai Chanu, Sathish Sivalingam and Venkat Rahul Ragala will miss this year’s World Championship opting to continue their rehabilitation program instead.
The World Championship is one of the ten qualifying events for the 2020 Japan Olympics. India will be fielding its B team, consisting junior lifters, in the event scheduled to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan from November 1.
“Senior players have not had the time to rest since the Commonwealth Games in April. After the CWG, they were supposed to attend a rehabilitation camp but things didn’t go as per plan,” National coach Vijay Sharma said.
“Some lifters went home, some went elsewhere. The players completely wasted about a month in this. The result was that they were unable to get the rest their body required. As a result, we had a dismal Asian Games outing. It was a major setback for us,” he said.
India failed to win a single medal at the Asian Games this year. Ajay Singh and Sathish finished fifth and 10th respectively in the men’s 77kg category with the latter injuring himself in one of his attempts.
Rakhi Halder (63kg), who was the only woman lifter representing India, was unable to register a lift, while Vikas Thakur finished eighth in the men’s 94kg category.
“We need to focus on qualifying for the Olympics. It is important to set the team well. The lifters need to go through proper rehab before participating in any event. Most of the players have already started the program,” Sharma said.
The senior players will be seen in action at the Asian Championship to be held in China in April next year.
“We are required to participate in any six of the 10 qualifying events. World championship is just one of them. After the World Championship, the next event will be the Asian Championship in China next year. We are targeting that event now.”
Defending world champion Mirabai, who is in Mumbai undergoing treatment for her lower-back injury, will also join her fellow lifters in the rehabilitation camp. “The pain has reduced a little. The doctor said the injury happened due to excessive load. I have started light weight training,” Mirabai said.
“Luckily, since past two weeks, Mira’s treatment has shown positive results. Her treatment is in sync with the training in Mumbai. She will resume proper training in October,” Sharma said.
Mirabai was recommended for the country’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award while coach Sharma’s name was put forward by the selection committee for the Dronacharya award.
“I am very happy that I’m receiving the Khel Ratna. I had an inkling that I will get it but with the Asian Games miss, I was not sure. My mother was very nervous for me, she kept on calling every hour to ask if I had heard something,” Mirabai said.
Sharma was also elated. “I’m elated that I’m getting this award, that too in my first go. This was the first time I filed my nomination. Although the Asian Games performance was not good but I am glad that they decided to give it to me and I am happy for Mira as well,” Sharma said.