There are not many who would have expected a world champion in the sport of weightlifting from India. For a sport, that was recently marred by massive failures and doping, bringing a gold medal from the World Weightlifting Championships isn't anything less than a dream come true.
But that's precisely what Saikhom Mirabai Chanu has given to this country. She bagged a gold medal in the women's 48 kg category of the World Weightlifting Championships 2017 and gave her fellow weightlifters a new hope for the almost extinct discipline of Indian weightlifting.
2018 is now the year, when Indian weightlifters can reclaim their lost ground and have a tryst with glory on the world stage. Saikhom Chanu is now being touted as a diligent successor to the legendary weightlifter and India's first ever female Olympic medalist Karnam Malleswari.
Apart from Saikhom Chanu, the focus will also be on the two emerging weightlifters in Sathish Sivalingam and Ragala Venkata Rahul. Sathish, who had rose to fame with his gold at Commonwealth Games, had done well, but not enough to get a podium finish at Rio Olympics.
Plenty of opportunities to make an impression
Ragala Venkata Rahul on the other hand, is the only Indian to get a medal in weightlifting at the Nanjing Youth Olympics 2014, having won a silver medal after giving a tough fight to the ultimate, Hakob Mkrtchyan of Armenia. Interestingly, Rahul is from the same category as Sathish competes in, and it will be interesting to see who makes the cut for the upcoming competitions in 2018.
For the Indian weightlifters, their year will begin with a warmup at the national level, when they'll participate in the Senior National Weightlifting Championships at Mangalore, Karnataka, to be held from 20th to 25th January 2018. The young guns shall have a further warmup with the Junior Weightlifting Championships, to be held from 20th to 25th of February, 2018, at Visakhapatnam.
The first major international challenge for the Indian weightlifting contingent will come forth at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, to be held from 4th to 15th of April, 2018, at Gold Coast City in Australia. This will be a golden opportunity for weightlifters like Mirabai, Sathish and Rahul to gain both the glory and the strength for their further pursuits.
The next challenge up will be for the young weightlifters, who will participate at the IWF Junior World Weightlifting Championships, to be held from 10th to 18th of June, 2018. However, since this championships is to be held of all places in Pyongyang, the capital of the notorious North Korea, it will be interesting if India does send its team, given the present circumstances of the country.
The senior contingent will be up for their next challenge, when they participate at the 18th Asian Games, to be held at Jakarta from 18th of August to 2nd of September. The young guns of Indian weightlifting will then have their tryst with glory, when they meet for the 3rd Youth Olympics, to be held at Buenos Aires, Argentina from 6th to 18th of October 2018.
However, the show isn't over yet. The senior team will have their final showdown at the 2018 IWF World Weightlifting Championships, which is coincidentally the first major qualification event for the Tokyo Olympics, 2020.
For the likes of Saikhom Chanu, who aims to follow in the footsteps of her idols like Karnam Malleswari and N Kunjarani Devi, this is nothing less than a golden opportunity to hit the jackpot. We seriously hope that like last year, she will continue to breach our expectations.