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Rio Olympics 2016: More than medals at stake for Satish Sivalingam and Mirabai Chanu

India has two weightlifters taking part in the Rio Olympics 2016 but can they win gold?

Sathish Sivalingam
Sathish Sivalingam at the Commonwealth Games

Lost in the din of athletes qualifying in the more high profile sports like shooting and badminton, as also the furore (positive and negative) over the largest ever wrestling contingent, has been the qualification of 2 Indian weightlifters Mirabai Chanu and Satish Sivalingam.

The former in the women's 48 kg category and the latter in the men's 77 kg category.

Both these athletes announced their arrival on the international scene ever since they clinched the Silver and Gold medals respectively at Glasgow Commonwealth Games. 

Satish looking to better Commonwealth Gold

His best in an international competition to date has been 328 kg at Glasgow in 2014 and followed it up with 317 kg at World Championships later that year. He stood 22nd.

2015 was a busy year for Satish as he created a National record of 339 kg at Patiala and later led the Indian lifters Gold charge at the Commonwealth Championships with a 325 kg lift.

What was turning out to be a good year for Satish ended in disaster at World Championships wherein he suffered a slip disc after his Snatch effort of 142 kg. Arguably the worst injury for a weightlifter alongside elbow dislocations.

Credit is due for this hard working lifter as he fought back into competition mode and helped India to the 5th spot at the Asian Championships in Tashkent which was the last Olympic qualifying tournament for Asian lifters. He lifted 317 kg.

Also read: Interview with Satish Kumar Sivalingam: Confident of doing well in World Weightlifting Championship 

Signs of his coming back to his best were evident in the Olympic trials held a few weeks back as he lifted 336 kg(151-Snatch + 185 C&J) just 3 kg shy of his August 2015 national record setting form.

These lifts will easily fetch him gold at Commonwealth Games but what about Rio?

The world’s best this year stands at 367 kg in the name of the Armenian Andranik Karpateyan. There are 15 men who have lifted more than Satish’s Olympic trial lift of 339 kg and the worrisome part is the best of Kazakhs, Chinese and the Russians have not been active in competitions this year.

Even if the Russian and the Kazakhs are barred from competitions at Rio, Satish also lags behind some extremely in form Colombians, Armenians and Thai lifters and that too by some distance.

And we have not considered which of the Chinese lifters will be seen at Rio.

In a weight category where the Russian are not the best, China has a host of lifters to choose from including former World Champion LYU Xiaojun, Liao Hui, Su Ying while the Kazakh Nijat Rahimov and the Armenian Andranik Karapateyan have been extremely consistent over time.

Throw the young and talented Thai Chatuphum Chinnawong into the mix makes us realize that even if Satish performs at the upper end of his potential a top ten place is not guaranteed.

Nevertheless, Satish will be wiser for the experience.

Chanu’s silver at Glasgow just the starting point

Mirabai Chanu Saikhom
Mirabai Chanu could bag a medal at the Olympics

An extremely hard working athlete who had to fight over great odds like poverty and opposition at home, Mirabai performances since the Glasgow Games has been an exponential rise.

Probably no other Rio bound Indian athlete has improved as much as this diminutive girl from India’s Northeast State of Manipur.

Less than 24 months ago a lift of 170 kg had fetched her Silver behind Sanjita Chanu at the Glasgow CWG.

The second half of that year saw Mirabai participate at Asian Games and the World Championships and to her credit, she lifted 171 and 172 kg respectively at these 2 events.

This was ample evidence of her hardworking capacity as she managed to participate in 3 back to back to back highly competitive tournaments..and sustain the intensity sure sign of positive things to come.

Also read: Once unable to afford a glass of milk, Mirabai Chanu has charted an unlikely Rio Olympic journey

2015 saw Mirabai lifting above 180 kg in both the Commonwealth Championships which she won and the World Championships where she stood 9th.

The South Asian Games came and went fetching another title for Mirabai, but she really started to make headlines at the Asian Championships in Tashkent.

Out went her coach Kunjarani Devi’s National record in the Snatch with an 84 kg lift and the total record of 190 kg was equaled.

There was more to follow at the subsequent Olympic trial. Mirabai lifted 85 kg in the snatch and 107 kg in the clean and jerk for a total lift of 192 kg. Chanu matched Devi’s Clean and Jerk National record of 107 kg in the clean and jerk and bettered the national record for total lift by 2 kg.

So a clear jump of 23 kg in the total of the two Olympic lifts, from 169 kg at Glasgow to 192 kg at the trials.

Come Rio and the challenges would be different. China’s Hou Zhihui who lifted 210 kg at their Olympic trials looks untouchable whereas Jiang Huihua the reigning world Champion lifted 200 kg at the same Olympic trials.

But courtesy the quota system of Olympics only athletes 4 women lifters per country can participate so maybe silver and bronze is up for grabs.

Ahead of Mirabai in the pecking order for the lesser medals will be Ryang Chun Hwa of North Korea, Khamsri Panida of Thailand, Thi Thuy Nguyen of Vietnam, Chen Wei- Ling of Taipei, Agustiani Sri Wahyuni of Thailand.

The positive is that these 5 lifters are just 1 kg to 5 kg ahead of Mirabai in terms of totals lifted this year..all the Tashkent Asian Championships.

Whosoever amongst this tight cluster handles the pressure better on the big stage will climb atop the podium and if its Mirabai who manages to do so then her achievement may provide the same positive trigger that Sushil Kumar’s bronze did to Indian freestyle wrestling in 2008.

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