GOLD COAST : The wound of Rio Olympics still haunts her. Even now when she talks about it, her voice quivers and her words turn sombre: “Main game chod ne ka faisla kar liya tha (I had decided to quit the sport).” Mirabai Chanu adds philosophically, “I’m here because of what I faced in the Rio Olympics.” Indeed, she is.Psychologically, she has recovered since that fateful day in Rio two years ago when she managed one clean lift out of six. A World Championships gold last year acted as a healing potion but was not enough to wipe off the scar. On Thursday, when she stood on the podium with the yellow metal dangling around her neck, those pitiable times became a distant blur. No-lifts, like false starts, break the confidence of a lifter. And Mirabai has been a habitual offender. On Thursday, there were none.
“After Olympics, my mother supported me and made me understand that these things happen. I also discussed my performance with Vijay Sharma (national weightlifting coach) and tried to eliminate flaws in my technique,” she said. “My performance in Rio was the worst of my life. I had worked very hard and was hoping to deliver a medal there.” Mirabai has been performing ever since. No-lifts have been minimal and she has added 26 kg since her silver in 2014 at Glasgow.
Weightlifting in the CWG is perhaps not the greatest field to test her talent. But her creating a national record is a testimony of her serious determination. She bettered the Commonwealth Games record in snatch as well as clean and jerk. Her total effort of 196 kg was a national record — this would have fetched her silver in Rio. It’s not easy to get the adrenaline pumping if you are your only competition. Mirabai acknowledges that competition here is not ideal. “But I wanted to give my best and doing well is my duty. I’m happy I was able to beat my record.”
The vociferous crowd egged her on during every attempt. Though she knew gold was within her reach, the 48kg lifter was planning her every move. “I was thinking yesterday that tomorrow is my event, tomorrow is the day when I can do something worthwhile,” she said. “Before sleeping, I told myself that I have to do well for my country.”In sport, pain within can be healed over time but physical pain needs healing hands. Weightlifting demands constant attention. Recovery depends on expert physios and masseurs.
Even Mirabai has niggles in her legs. She lamented the lack of a physio and how she has not got enough help to recover. “The physio had come here,” she said. “Even during training, he’s not being allowed to come. He’s also not allowed in the Village and I am getting very little treatment. He did not come today either.”
Gold in her pocket, Mirabai is looking at the Asian Games with hope. She revels in stiff competition and is looking forward to the Jakarta Asian Games later this year. “Everyone who was at the World Championships — lifters from China, South Korea and Thailand will come for the Asian Games. But I don’t think it will be too tough for me. I’m sure I can win a medal there as well.”One step at a time. Only after the Asian Games, will she think about the Olympics in Tokyo. “I’ll think about the 2020 Olympics after the Asian Games. But I’ll train harder to give an even better performance.”
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