India won its first medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after Mirabai Chanu clinched silver in weightlifting. Chanu became the first Indian weightlifter to win a silver medal in Olympics. She also ended the country two-decade wait for a medal in weightlifting at the Olympics.
The 27-year-old star weightlifter from Manipur has been a top contender in the 48-49 kg weight class in international events since 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Mirabai Chanu and said “her success motivates every Indian”.
"Could not have asked for a happier start to @Tokyo2020! India is elated by @mirabai_chanu’s stupendous performance. Congratulations to her for winning the Silver medal in weightlifting. Her success motivates every Indian,” PM Modi tweeted.
Chanu was born in a small village, 20 kilometres from Imphal. She was the youngest of the six siblings. Her growing up years were riddled with challenges. She collected firewood for home and carried huge bundles on her head. Her family noticed her ability to lift heavy weights and pushed her for the sport.
Her first major victory came in 2014 with a silver medal. Two years later, she qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics but failed in all three attempts on her clean and jerk lifts.
Chanu won gold at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships and set a competition record. Another gold awaited her at the Commonwealth Games 2018.
She missed out by a whisker at the Asian and World Weightlifting Championship in 2019. The next year she took the top spot in India’s national weightlifting event, when she lifted a total of 203 kg, and secured a bronze at the Asian Weightlifting event.
But her journey to silver at the Olympics wasn’t easy. She struggled with injuries, continuous pain, shoulder instability and weakness, and back and hip issues. Unplanned training breaks due to COVID-19 lockdowns also affected her training regimen and strength.
Chanu was taken to St. Louis USA by weightlifting coach Vijay Sharma.
“The purpose was two-fold. It would help us get fresh mentally since we had spent the whole year inside NIS Patiala. Training in a different environment would break the monotony. The gym there was very modest and we didn’t have a lot to do in our free time. But the bigger factor was to get Mira checked by Dr Aaron,” Sharma explained.
Dr Aaron Horschig, weightlifter turned physiotherapist, has worked with top athletes. At St. Louis, Dr. Horschig managed to identify and help Chanu fix her issues.
Chanu received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sports award for civilians in 2018; and Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award the same year for her contributions to the country.
Chanu also received a cash prize of Rs 20 lakh in 2018 from Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.
(Edited by : Anshul)
First Published: IST