CHENNAI: It has been a promising week for Indian weightlifting. Apart from returning with 35 medals in all categories, the Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Championship in Apia, Samoa, broke a total of 22 records at the national and international level. While it is a clear indication that lifters in the country are improving, the Olympic dream still seems far-fetched according to national coach Vijay Sharma.
Speaking to this daily, Sharma said that Saikhom Mirabai Chanu is the only realistic medal hope ahead of Tokyo 2020. “Taking a look at performances, Chanu is the only one who is on par with the Olympic level. We have a lot of talented youngsters like Jeremy Lalrinnunga. But they need time and I am sure that the numbers will definitely go up by 2024,” he said.
And that is exactly why Chanu has to be given the best care possible. The Manipur girl had experienced pain in her lower back after the Commonwealth Games last year and even missed out on the Asian Games and World Championships. But she has been much better since and even bagged a gold medal at the EGAT Cup in Thailand — her first outing since the setback.
While Sharma is still not sure what caused the issue, he has opted for a careful approach when it comes to Chanu. He also revealed that Chanu is not convinced about her recovery and is scared that the problem might come back ahead of the quadrennial event. “We have tweaked her training regime since the injury. The key is to make sure Chanu is stress-free physically and mentally. It has worked well so far and I hope it continues.”
The World Championships in Thailand in September will be the next major tournament for Indian lifters. A good performance there will help the lifters towards sealing Olympic quota places. However, there is no plan to go abroad and train ahead of the event. The team had spent some time in Melbourne before the Commonwealth Championships and Sharma said that they will be training in Patiala and leave for Thailand from there. “We might go for an exposure trip after the Worlds. But nothing has been decided,” he said.
After the Worlds, Sharma said that they are targetting two more competitions to make sure they are ready for the big one. “We will participate in The Qatar Cup that will happen in December and the Asian Weightlifting Championships in April next year.”