Mirabai aims to break world record before Tokyo Olympics
New Delhi, Feb 12 (PTI) She made a successful comeback after an injury lay-off, but India's top weightlifter Mirabai Chanu realises that she needs to improve her performance by a few notches if she wants to claim gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Mirabai, a 2017 World Championships gold medallist (in 48kg) was laid low due to a lower back injury that kept her out for eight months, claimed gold at the EGAT Cup in Thailand last week in her new 49 kg category. She finished on top with an effort of 192 kg.
But Mirabai knows only too well that she will have to go way beyond the 200kg mark sooner than later so that she can compete with the best in the world in her new weight category.
"With the increase of 1kg from 48 to 49, all the weightlifters will now try to increase their total lift. Moreover, some lifters, who were competing in 53kg earlier will now come down to 49kg. So, the competition will be tougher now," Mirabai told PTI in an interview.
"I am doing 199-200kg during training and I am confident of going past 200kg in the actual competitions in the next few months. My aim is to touch 210kg before the Tokyo Olympics, which will be the world record. It will not be easy but my target is to do that and I will have to work harder than before," she added.
It will not be easy for the 24-year-old Manipuri to improve 10kg in one and a half years. Her personal best in 48kg is 196kg, which she lifted while winning gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. She had won the 2017 World Championships gold (in 48kg) with a total lift of 194kg.
Last year, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) rejigged the weight categories for both men and women in the Olympics and other global events. The least Olympic weight in the women's category has been changed to 49kg from earlier 48kg.
The 2018 World Championships in Turkmenistan was held under the new weight system and the gold, silver and bronze winners there lifted 209kg, 208kg and 206kg respectively. Even the fourth-place finisher lifted 201kg.
"I have to do better than the 209kg if I have to keep myself in the frame for a Tokyo Olympics gold. I hope to do that before the Olympics. The Asian Championships in April in China) and 2019 World Championships (in September in Thailand) will give me a chance to do that as the best in the world will be there.
"I can do that but I have to work harder than before. I want to break the world record of 209kg," she said.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will have seven women's weight categories -- 49kg, 55kg, 59kg, 64kg, 76kg, 87kg and +87kg.
The qualification process has also been changed with the earlier system of clinching an Olympic berth based on a single performance has been done away with. The qualification period has been split into three -- from November 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019; May 1, 2019, to October 31, 2019; November 1, 2019, to April 30, 2020.
A weightlifter has to participate in a minimum of six IWF-designated events (Gold and Silver level only) and a minimum of one eligible event per period.
At the end of the qualification period, the IWF will issue a list of weightlifters on the basis of Absolute Ranking Points subject to participation in two events in the same Olympic category and calculated from four results -- best one from each of the three periods and one next best result in the whole of qualification period.
Mirabai said she has no problem with the new qualification system as it will keep a weightlifter consistent in his or her performance.
"Earlier, a weightlifter may qualify for Olympics early in the qualification period and his or her performance may dip before going into the Olympics. Under the new system, I have to keep my performance consistent because I cannot miss taking part in all the three periods," she said.
The new qualification system may also make it difficult for weightlifters to resort to doping as an Olympic berth does no longer depend on a single performance.
"The IWF has really made it more stringent as far as dope testing is concerned. Now we have to give whereabouts every month. I have said earlier how many times I have been tested. I am clean and so I have no problem."
Mirabai is one of the four Indian weightlifters, who are in the International Registered Testing Pool of the IWF. The other three are Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Satish Kumar Sivalingam and Monalisha Sonowal