Commonwealth Games 2014: Manipur - A breeding ground for women weightlifters

N Kunjarani Devi

Women weightlifters make Manipur a force to reckon with

Indian weightlifting looks up to the continental competitions besides the World Championships and the Olympics with a great deal of excitement as these are perhaps the best platforms to generate buzz about the sport, which hasn’t been embraced in every nook and corner of the country. Manipur is one state, which has been consistently providing a supply line to the national weightlifting squad – lifters from this hilly Northeastern state don’t just make up the numbers, but actually make their presence felt with power-packed performances.

For a state, which has been ravaged by various militant organizations over the years with very little of industrialization and employment – a place where there is nothing called ‘night life’ as shops and business establishments close down early. A place where people are prone to ‘mugging’ while roaming around in public places, it is sports that really keeps the state going.

N Kunjarani Devi is one name synonymous when we think of Manipur’s contribution to the sport over the years. Kunjarani has been a phenomenal figure, having bagged three gold medals in the women’s 48-kg category at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games (when separate medals were dished out for snatch, clean & jerk and total) – she even went on to retain the title at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. A bronze medallist at the 1990 and 1994 Asiad, Kunjarani has pocketed more than fifty international medals and no wonder she is an inspiration for every upcoming lifter in the state.

Success not limited to one weight category

The weightlifting arena at the Commonwealth Games does not stop with N Kunjarani Devi if we look out for ‘Manipur’ flavor in such meets. Sanamacha Chanu was another Manipur lifter who scooped up three gold medals in the women’s 53-kg at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, on par with the exploits of Kunjarani in that edition medal-wise and later featured in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Yumnam Chanu was another Manipuri who won the gold medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Remember Monika Devi – another Manipur lass who picked up a silver in the women’s 69-kg in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Clearly, the contribution of Manipur’s women lifters to the country’s medal haul in the Commonwealth Games over the years has been humongous. And now the state has been made more proud by the feats of women’s 48-kg lifters K Sanjita and Mirabai Chanu, further adding to the medal cabinet of Manipur in weightlifting. Fittingly, the ‘trendsetter’ called Kunjarani was in Glasgow egging on Sanjitha and Mirabai in their vernacular language as coach of the Indian weightlifting team.

Sanjita Khumukcham

The 20-year-old Sanjita lifted 173 kg (77+96), while her 19-year-old state-mate Mirabai did not make gold-winning path a smooth one as she breathed down her neck before finishing a close second lifting a total of 170 (75+95). It may be recalled here that Sanjita has been in good form in recent times, and had lifted 179kg (79+100) in the 29th Senior Nationals in Nagpur to take the gold, while Mirabai Chanu Saikhom who lifted 161kg (72+89) had to settle for the silver and the script folded the same way in Glasgow, but the contest was more tighter than the Nagpur nationals.

Sports ministry should put in efforts to encourage more weightlifters

Sanchita is a 2012 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship gold medallist as well as a 2011 Asian Championships bronze medallist, while Mirabai snaffled three gold medals at the 2013 Commonwealth Championships 2013 besides a silver at the 2014 Asian Junior Championships and three bronze medals at the 2013 World Junior Weightlifting Championships.

One has to understand that the performance of this Manipuri combo is no flash in the pan and the WFI, SAI and the Sports Ministry must work together to ensure these prodigious talents are given the desired training and international exposure so that they emerge as serious podium-finishers at major events like the World Championships and Olympics – and of course, the Manipur brigade will continue to roll on!

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Edited by Staff Editor