IMAGE: Mirabai Chanu’s gold earrings were a gift from her mother to exorcise the ghosts of the 2016 Games. Photograph: Edgard Garrido/Reuters
It won’t be surprising if diminutive Mirabai Chanu stands atop the podium, flashing her radiant smile, after winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on July 30.
After all, she will enter Birmingham, as title favourite.
Chanu’s personal best is 207kg (88kg+119kg) which is far better than the best effort of Nigeria’s Stella Kingsley, who will be her nearest rival and has managed only 168kg (72kg+96kg) till date.
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 kitty.
It is not baffling when she avowed that she herself will be her real competition in Birmingham and not her rivals.
“CWG will be easy for me. I will be fighting with myself,” Chanu, who already has a silver (2014) and a gold (2018) at CWG, asserts politely.
“There is not much competition in CWG, but that doesn’t man there is no competition. I have to give my best performance keeping in mind the future tournaments,” she said during a candid chat at Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NIS).
Since there won’t be competition, Chanu has bigger targets in mind.
She is eager to rewrite her own clean and jerk world record of 119kg.
“I am thinking of attempting 120kg in the CWG.”
The former world champion also wants to breach the much-anticipated 90kg mark in the snatch section, which she confesses has become somewhat of a mental block.
“Yes (it has become a mental block). We have planned to lift 91kg or 92kg at the CWG. Hopefully, it will happen.”
But lifting close to twice your body weight is easier said than done specially when Chanu still struggles with a shoulder imbalance.
Earlier this month, she failed to improve her snatch lift, unable to hoist 89kg twice at a domestic event due to her back.
“My back became stiff (tight) 2-3 days before going. The journey to Nagrota was also five hours. We went form Patiala to Chandigarh a day before the tournament, then took a flight from Chandigarh, which was also late. So the back became more tight.”
Aware of her weakness in snatch, Chanu has worked on tweaking her technique.
“I haven’t gone above 88kg. That is the weight I have set. But training wise right now I am better placed than I was at the Olympics.
“To lift 90kg in a competition, we set the weight between 80-90kg which we lift consistently everyday. It’s not like we lift 90kg everyday,” she explains.
Her personal best of 88kg is 8kg less than Tokyo gold medallist China’s Hou Zhihui’s world record lift of 96kg.
“I have changed my snatch technique. In snatch, while rising, the toes, back and shoulder should be in a line. Back and shoulders are very important they need to move fast. Earlier my movement was not synchronised. Now I have changed it.”
Chanu conceded that she feels compelled to compensate her frailty in snatch by lifting more in clean and jerk.
“Yes, I feel if not one, then in the other I have to improve. To reach 96kg, it will take some time and it will be a little difficult for me.
“93kg-94kg I can reach. If I perform 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 be vying for her third CWG medal, will once again be wearing her gold earrings shaped like Olympic rings, which had stolen the show at the Tokyo Games.
The earring were a gift from her mother, who had sold her own kabhi upar kabhi neechejewellery ahead of the Rio Games, in hope that it would bring her daughter luck. And luck it brought.
“I will wear those earrings at the Commonwealth Games. They brought me luck in Tokyo,” Chanu said with an ear to ear grin.
Up and downs in Life
After she won the silver at Tokyo Games, in a heart-warming gesture Chanu felicitated the truck drivers who used to give her free rides till her training academy in Imphal, which was about 30km away from her village.
“I found all the truck drivers and because of Corona they were all sitting at home,” Chanu reminisced.
“They were really happy. I saw them and I thought of those days when they used to keep blowing their truck horns and I would run to get a lift. When I reflect, I remember all the difficulties I had to go through to reach here. But what to do, life is a cycle, .”
Eagerly waiting for Asian Games
The Asian Games now remains the only big ticket-event where Chanu is yet stamp her authority.
Chanu had missed the last edition due to a back injury. And the wait for a medal at the continental event has increased as this year’s Asiad has been postponed indefinitely.
“Asian Games is the only medal left. Now I want that.”
“On the one hand, it’s good that it has been postponed. On the other hand it will now be held closer to the Olympics. I have got time for training. But now it will be held alongside other Olympic qualifiers which means I will have to be in competition through out that period.”