CHENNAI: An entry total of 210kg - five kg more than her personal best - made by India's weightlifter Mirabai Chanu on Friday was the highest in the eight-woman 49-kg category on the eve of the big-ticket Tokyo Olympics. Saturday's event also features Chinese Hou Zhihui, who has entered 205 kg - eight lesser than her world-record personal best earlier this year at the Asian Championship, where Mirabai had bagged the bronze.
By the time the weigh-in starts on Saturday, the entry weights can be reduced by 20 kg, but the India camp is banking on Friday’s high standard to yield rich dividends when Mirabai steps up to make her first lift at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Back in Tokyo though it's all about strategy. "The strategy (of setting the highest entry total) will be discussed after the competition, but at the moment she (Mirabai) is confident of winning a medal at the biggest stage," chief coach Vijay Sharma told The New Indian Express from Tokyo.
Windy Cantika Aisah of Indonesia entered 203 kg, while the US’ Jourdan Delacruz Elizabeth managed 200 kg to figure on the above 200 kg list. The other four lifters set entries below the 200-kg mark.
The 26-year-old from Manipur had recently set the world record in clean and jerk by lifting 119 kg at the continental championship. However, it's her performance in the snatch that has been dragging her down. Her personal best of 88 kg in snatch is much lower than Zhihui's world record effort of 96 kg. Even US' Elizabeth has a better personal best of 89 kg in that section.
Sharma, however, feels otherwise. "It's not that she is weak in snatch. Whatever anomalies were there, we have worked on them. Now it's time to execute the plans for a podium finish," he said.
The coach's confidence stems from Mirabai's twin trip to St Louis in the US, where she worked under renowned physiotherapist Dr Aaron Horschig, who was a former national-level weightlifter. Mirabai headed straight to Tokyo from the US after working on her technique under the watchful eyes of Dr Horschif for almost two months.
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Before leaving for the first trip last year, the coach asserted there were a few biomechanical issues needing attention. It seems the issues have been resolved, with the physiotherapist discovering Mirabai's snatch technique lacked symmetry and working on it ahead of the quadrennial event.
"She is ready. We are definitely winning a medal," said Sahdev Yadav, IWLF secretary-general, who would complete a three-day mandatory quarantine in Tokyo on Friday and head for the competition the next day to watch Mirabai in action.
The 2017 world champion had a disappointing Olympic debut at the Rio Games five years ago. But five years is a long time and Mirabai is a favourite to win a medal this time around, as her personal best of 205 kg is second only to Zhihui's 213 among the current competitors.
She will be hoping to set the tone for India's campaign at the Olympics by bagging a medal on the first day of the event. For the record, Karnam Malleswari is the only Indian lifter to win an Olympic medal. She bagged bronze in the 69 kg category at the 2000 Sydney Games when the weightlifting arena was opened to women for the first time.
Meanwhile, miles away in Imphal neighbourhood her mother Saikhom Tombi Devi and the entire family would be glued to the TV set praying for a medal.