India can win weightlifting medal at Tokyo Olympics

The country has high hopes from three weightlifters, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, Rakhi Haldar and Jeremy Lalrinnunga.

I look forward to the moment when India gets another Olympic medal after 20 years in weightlifting. The entire Indian contingent is busy preparing for the Olympic qualifying events and I am having high hopes particularly from Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, Rakhi Haldar and Jeremy Lalrinnunga.

Looking at their preparations, the only thing I can say is that these three will not only qualify for the Games but also have the potential to win a medal. The postponement of the Olympics due to Covid-19 has also been beneficial for the Indian weightlifters. They have enough time for their preparations for Tokyo next year.

Mirabai, the best chance

In the women’s 49-kg category, Mirabai Chanu is one of the best lifters in the world. She has not only been a world champion but also prepared to make it to the first three in the Olympics. Today, three lifters from China are doing better than her. Thai lifters, who were doing better than her, have been caught in doping. It’s common to have 5-7 kg weight ups and downs in performance, so there are good chances of her winning a medal this time.

At the moment, Mirabai is one of the top 5 in world rankings. She has good techniques. She is consistently doing well in “snatch” and “clean and jerk” both. In the National Championship earlier this year, she lifted 88 kg in snatch and 115 kg in clean and jerk. Our expectations have increased further. This performance of hers was better than her performance in the World and Asian championships. I am happy that her current performance is also better than the performance of the last Rio Olympics gold medallist from Thailand.

However, one truth is that in Rio, this category was 48 kg but this time it has been increased to 49 kg. There should be an improvement in standards of performance. Hopefully, she will become the second Indian woman to win a medal in weightlifting at the Olympics.

Jeremy, a new talent

Jeremy Lalrinnunga is the second Indian weightlifter from Mizoram to be called the new sensation of Indian weightlifting. I personally keep an eye on his performance. He is just 17 years of age. He has raised hopes for the future by winning a gold at the Youth Olympics, setting a Youth World Record by lifting 274 kg in the 62-kg category. It was India’s first gold medal in weightlifting.

Since then, he has been improving his performance. He won a silver medal in the Asian championship even in the senior category and proved that his preparations are in the right direction. At present, he is lifting around 300 kg. His performance in the snatch event is quite good. He is expected to improve his performance in clean and jerk as well and move closer to the medal.

He is among the top 20 players in the world in the 67-kg category. Due to the rapid improvement in his performance, one can expect a medal from him. As he is young, he can be expected to perform well for India in the Olympics even further.

Rakhi Halder, a good prospect

The third player in the row is Rakhi Halder. Although I have not seen her very closely, her performance is the best among Indian women after Mirabai Chanu. She is a good prospect in the women’s 64-kg category. India’s challenge in the women’s heavyweight categories is generally mild and keeping this in mind, I will start a weightlifting academy in Yamuna Nagar soon.

Through this, I will do my bit in helping the nation overcome this problem. This academy is being formed in collaboration with the Central government. I will work to find talents at the grassroots level. Today, only Indian camp players can avail the facility in big centres like Bengaluru, Patiala, Kolkata and the Northeast. Nothing has been done to elevate talent in this game at the lower levels.

The academy is being built on two acres of my own land which will also have hostels and professional coaches to train players after searching them from across the country. The writer is the first Indian woman player to win a medal at the Olympics.