After spending more than a year without a competition, the Indian weightlifters are ready to test themselves in the Asian championships to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from April 16 to 25.
The Pattaya World championships in September 2019 was the last international outing for the Indians. The National championships in Kolkata in February 2020 was the last competition for them before the pandemic disrupted the calendar.
With the Olympics around the corner, the primary target for the Indians is to secure quota places in the Tokyo Games.
Former world champion S. Mirabai Chanu (women’s 49kg) and Jeremy Lalrinnunga (men’s 67kg) are the leading Indians who are capable of winning Olympic quota places. According to chief National coach Vijay Sharma, Mirabai, who is ranked fourth in the world, will qualify by competing in the Asian championships (a gold-level Olympic qualifying event) and fulfilling the requirement of taking part in six designated events in the prescribed time frame.
Jeremy, who has a personal best of 306kg in an international event and is ranked 22nd, has a good chance of qualifying, said Sharma.
All eyes will be on Mirabai, who will be eager to prove her mettle after getting treated for her lower back pain in the USA. Mirabai, who set a new National mark with an aggregate of 203kg in the National championships in Kolkata, will look forward to at least matching her best performance.
“Mira has been lifting with confidence after her treatment in the USA and that makes us optimistic about her chances,” said Sharma.
The pullout of North Korea, which will eventually result in the non-participation of medal contender Ri Song Gum (who has a best total of 209) in the Olympics will brighten Mirabai’s chances. The Indian has a best total of 201kg in an international event.
The assistance of psychologists should benefit Mirabai and Jeremy while going into a top competition after a long COVID-induced break.
Other lifters, including two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist S. Sathish Kumar (81kg), will be keen to get back into competition mode in the continental meet.