CHENNAI: Eleven athletes from India will be part of the upcoming Asian Weightlifting Championships in Ningbo, China. Given it doubles up as a qualifying event for the Tokyo Games, national chief coach Vijay Sharma minced no words when talking about its importance. “It’s a very important... ‘A’ grade,” he told this newspaper.
But Sanjita Chanu, who anyway has a question mark hanging over her head because of doping-related issues, will not be one among those athletes so her chances of qualifying for the 2020 Games have gone up in smoke. “She did not join the camp when we asked her to,” Sharma said. “She said she still wasn’t fit enough so that means she has no chance to take part in the Olympics as this is the last event for this semester.” All weightlifters hoping to make the cut will have to take part in at least one key event if they want to be considered for selection. Chanu won’t so she will not be able to qualify.
Of the athletes who are travelling to Ningbo — four in the women’s category and seven in the men’s section — most eyes will be on Mirabai Chanu, Jeremy Lalrinnunga and Sathish Sivalingam. Commonwealth Games champion RV Rahul was initially supposed to be part of the contingent but a back injury meant he has been ruled out. For Mirabai, the onus will be on her to continue her fine form in the 48kg category having secured gold at the EGAT’s Cup in February.
With the mystery back injury behind her, the former world champion ‘has trained well and will be in the medal bracket,’ according to Sharma. However, Sivalingam, a multiple CWG champion, will be out to prove that he has completely recovered from the multitude of injuries he has suffered over the last six-eight months. When speaking to this newspaper last week, he had expressed hope that he was fit and ready but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
While none of the 11 athletes will be able to qualify for the Olympics from this tournament, a good performance will go a long way in ensuring that they are in with a decent chance. “The qualification process will be determined based on an athlete’s performances in the six International Weightlifting Federation-designated events in an 18-month period, which is divided across three phases,” Sharma said.
“The overall hope is we can get four athletes (two each in the men and women) to qualify for Tokyo. It will be good returns if we can get that done.”
After the Asian Championships, four more Olympic qualifiers remain (Commonwealth championships, Worlds, next Asian Championships and another event which will be announced at a later date).
Squad: Men: Sathish Sivalingam, Vikas Thakur, Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Gurdeep Singh, M Raja, Pardeep Singh, Achinta Sheuli. Women: Mirabai Chanu, Jhilli Dalabehera, Swati, Rakhi Halder.