Five years ago, she had failed to register a single legal lift in the clean and jerk. But Mirabai was determined to exorcise the ghosts of Rio once and for all.
And the 26 year old from Imphal managed to do just that and more, in style in Tokyo. Not only did she end up on the podium in Tokyo, she also became the first Indian weightlifter to win a silver at the Olympics. Thanks to Mirabai’s achievement, India opened its medal account in Tokyo. Mirabai lifted a total of 202 kg (87kg in snatch and 115kg in clean and jerk.
Mirabai has indeed come a long way from her Rio disappointment.
With her achievement in Tokyo, Mirabai joined Karnam Malleswari (69kg) as the second Indian weightlifter to win an Olympic medal. Karnam had won bronze at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, becoming at that time the first Indian female Olympic medallist. TimesofIndia.com caught up with the Olympic silver medallist, Mirabai Chanu to talk about her Tokyo glory, meeting Mary Kom after her silver medal win, her plans for the Paris Olympics in 2024, and much more…
Has the realisation that you are now an Olympic silver medallist sunk in? How does it feel to be only the second Indian weightlifting Olympic medalist?
It’s a surreal moment, I’m honored to be recognized alongside Karnam ma’am. I’m grateful to the coaching staff, Vijay Sharma sir for always being there, SAI-TOPS, Indian Weightlifting Federation
(IWF), Railways, OGQ, and IOS Sports & Entertainment. Most importantly, my parents and well-wishers have supported me through thick and thin.
People need idols to follow. You have now become a firm hero figure for youngsters who would want to take up weightlifting as a sport. What message would you want to give the youngsters who are keen on pursuing weightlifting?
In our country, a sport like weightlifting isn’t seen as much of a long-term career prospect, I hope my performance in Tokyo would have given hope to millions of young girls to pursue the sport and bring laurels for our country.
Did you miss fans in Tokyo? They were not there to cheer for you…
Yes, I miss the cheering and support from the fans, but I know that people back in India were supporting me and watching my performance and I dedicate this achievement to the entire nation.
You met MC Mary Kom after winning the medal in Tokyo. What did she tell you?
She wished me for my success and said that I’ve made my country and also my home state, Manipur proud by winning Silver at the Tokyo Games. She also mentioned that I should keep the passion intact and hoped that this purple patch continues for me in upcoming years.
What is the atmosphere like back home, in the family? How did your parents react to the news of you winning the historic silver medal?
My parents and the whole family are now over the moon. I saw on TV that the whole family and neighbours were watching my attempts with so much keenness. Both (parents) were elated and are waiting for me to come back home. It has been a long journey for me, I have missed many festivals, quality time with them to achieve this moment and now I’m looking forward to enjoying the celebrations with them.
What did Rio heartbreak teach you? What did you learn from the Rio experience that helped you in Tokyo?
The experience at Rio was a learning curve for me. What I have achieved today is all because of the heartbreak at Rio. I learned from the mistakes that I committed in Rio. Since 2016, I’ve tried to balance my nutrition and diet, focussed both on physical and mental aspects of training, and numerous training sessions be it in India or in the USA, which kept me in shape and ready for the D-day.
What next for Mirabai Chanu? How about the next Olympics? Another Olympic medal to your name in Paris…
Absolutely, I’m just 26 and in my best shape, so Paris 2024 is my target and I would like to leave Paris with gold in hand. As mentioned previously, I am focussed on my nutrition intake and training regime to ensure that I remain a champion all the way.