Saikhom Mirabai Chanu on Thursday became the first Indian in over two decades to claim a gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championship in Anaheim, USA, exorcising the ghosts of her forgettable outing at the Rio Olympics.
Chanu, who is employed with the Indian Railways, lifted 85 kg in snatch and 109 kg in clean and jerk to total an impressive 194 kg in the women’s 48 kg, in the process setting a new national record.
“What I have achieved today would not have been possible without the guidance of my coach Vijay Sharma. Me and my coach left no stone unturned in our quest to taste success at the top level,” said Chanu, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist.
“It was disappointing I could not win a medal in Rio Olympics. I made mistakes (in Rio) and I am still sad about that. This medal has erased that sadness. I will work on my weaknesses and try to win medals in CWG and Asian Games next year and Tokyo Olympics.”
Seeing the tricolour from the podium, tears of joy rolled down her cheeks, as the 23-year-old Manipuri picked up a rare honour for an Indian at the marquee event.
“We have got a medal in weightlifting after 24 years, it is great achievement. In fact, this is a bigger achievement than Olympics because World Championships is much tougher with a bigger and stronger pool of players,” Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Secretary General Sahdev Yadav told PTI from Anaheim.
“I would like to congratulate both Mirabai as well as coach Vijay Sharma for the huge feat. The coach trained her very well and he deserves a lot of credit for her success,” he added.
Chanu, with her lift of 85 kg, came second in snatch but bagged the top positions each in clean & jerk and in overall total to finish with the yellow metal in a field of 20 lifters.
Thailand’s Sukcharoen Thunya won the silver medal with a total lift of 193 kg, while Segura Ana Iris bagged the bronze with 182 kg.
With a personal best of 192 kg, Chanu entered into the competition as a strong medal contender and her quest for a gold medal was made easier by the absence of Rio Olympics 48 kg gold medallist Sopita Tanasan of Thailand, who shifted to 53 kg in this championship and China could not field any lifter due to a one-year ban for doping.
Chanu had finished ninth in the 2015 World Championships while she ended 11th in the 2014 edition.
In September, Chanu had booked a berth for next year’s Commonwealth Games after winning gold at the Commonwealth Senior Weightlifting Championships held in Australia. She had broken Commonwealth record in snatch event with a lift of 85 kg, bettering her own record by a kilogramme.
Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleshwari had won the top prize in the World Championships twice — in 1994 and 1995.
Kunjarani Devi had also won several medals — mostly silver but never a gold — in the World Championships between 1989 to 1999.
Chanu’s outing in the USA was very different from the way things panned out in Rio last year when she put up a disappointing performance, as she could not get an overall total in women’s 48 kg after failing to lift the weight in any of her three attempts in clean and jerk section.
In a field of 12 lifters at the Rio Games, she was one of two lifters who did not finish (DNF) her event.