Mirabai Chanu scripted history on the 24th of July when she became the second Indian weightlifter after the legendary Karanam Malleswari to bag an Olympic medal. The 26-year-old secured silver in the Women’s 49kg weightlifting category. This also meant that for the first time in Olympic history, India had won a medal on the opening day of the Olympics thanks to the stupendous efforts of Chanu.
Mirabai has always been a familiar name in the sports circuit, but she engraved her name in every Indian’s heart by achieving this feat. Behind her precious smile is hidden the bumpy path that leads her into this glory. The Bharat Army takes a look at this journey of her’s:
Born in a middle-class family in the Imphal East district of Manipur, Mirabai has always believed to display great enthusiasm in sports. In fact, she was the only one from her family, including her 2 brothers and 4 sisters, to have at least some familiarity with sports.
She always displayed great physical strength from her early childhood, which propelled her parents to push her towards sports. She toiled hard at a very young age to learn and excel in weightlifting under the guidance of her coach Anita Chanu, who is also a former international weightlifter.
Mirabai first rose to prominence with her silver medal in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, when she won silver in the 48 kg women’s weightlifting category. The run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics involved plenty of obstacles, with several challenges for her. She managed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 48 kg women’s weightlifting category but had to settle for a disappointing result.
With no success in any of her three lifts in the clean and jerk section, she had to exit the Olympics without even finishing her respective events. After her heart-breaking exit from the Rio Olympics, she never really look back. The post-2016 Olympic period also marked a new beginning of her career. It was evident from her gold in the Senior Nationals, after successfully lifting 186 Kgs in the clean and jerk segment.
Lead up to the Tokyo Olympics
Mirabai’s comeback after her Olympic upset has been nothing short of extraordinary. She started by winning gold in the 2018 Commonwealth games for India by lifting 196 kg, making it her best performance until then. Shortly after this period, however, she had to endure severe back pain, which made a dent in her career progress.
This also resulted in her having to change her weight category from her intended 48 to 49 kgs. This also affected her performances which were evident from her missing out on the 2019 Asian Weightlifting Championships. Her physical condition started to deteriorate even further at the beginning of 2020 due to her constant injury-prone physique. However, fortunately for her, the path to recovery has been swifter and smoother, reflected in her performances in the Asian Championship. In June 2021, Mirabai became the only Indian weightlifter to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Leading into the Olympics, Mirabai was branded as one of the potential medal contenders for India. Living up to the predictions, Mirabai not only bagged a medal but managed to do so in style by securing the second most decorated one, i.e. the Silver medal. She achieved this feat by lifting 202 kg, including 87 in snatch and 115 in the jerk events. She is second only to the Chinese Weightlifter Hou Zhihui, who picked 210 kg in total to secure gold.
Every athlete aspires for an Olympic medal, and only a fraction would eventually convert this into a reality. Mirabai’s name will forever be engraved in the Indian sports hall of fame by making the Olympic dream reality. Moreover, this feat will encourage many women, especially those from the northeast, to pick up the sport.