Mirabai, Indian lifters aim at improving Olympic qualification ranking at Asian Championships

Jinju (Korea): Tokyo Olympics silver medallist weightlifter Mirabai Chanu will once again spearhead the Indian challenge at the Asian Championships but she is unlikely to attempt the much-awaited 90kg snatch lift here on Friday.

The two-time Commonwealth Games champion had won silver in her last outing at the World Championship in December with an overall effort of 200kg (87kg +113kg).

It was far from her personal best of 207kg (88kg+119kg) and this time too, the former world champion 49kg lifter is not expected to test her limits.

“Mira only has to participate here. We will take it easy,” head coach Vijay Sharma told PTI.

“She will just participate and lift 85kg (snatch)…110kg (clean and jerk), totals that she can easily get,” Sharma added.

This means the wait for the coveted 90kg snatch lift could be longer. Chanu, who struggles with a back issue that affects her snatch, has been trying to breach the 90kg-mark since 2020.

But with the Olympics still a year to go and the Asian Games scheduled in September, the Manipuri wants to peak at the right time. The last time Chanu competed at the event in 2021, she made history by creating a new world record in the clean and jerk category, which still stands.

“We will create world records in the Olympic year. She was at her peak the last time she was here because Olympics were just around the corner. The Paris Olympics is next year. There is no point peaking now.

“We have to take keep in mind her age also, she is not a kid anymore, her body needs to be taken care of more now,” Sharma said of the 28-year-old.

The Indian will renew her rivalry with the Chinese duo of Jiang Huihua and Hou Zhihui, who have the highest entry weights of 205kg each. Zhihui is the reigning Olympic champion.

Chanu, on the other hand, has the second highest entry weight, along with two other lifters.

In the latest Olympic Qualification Ranking (OQR), Chanu is in the second spot behind Huihua.

It will also be the first time Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg) and Achinta Sheuli (73kg) compete in an event since winning the gold at the Commonwealth Games last August.

While Jeremy had been nursing a thigh injury, Achinta had to withdraw from the World Championships in December at the last minute after he pulled his hamstring during the warm ups.

The duo will aim to collect the required ranking points to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Jeremy will continue to compete in non-Olympic 67kg weight class. The Aizawl lifter was supposed to bulk up to the 73kg Olympic weight class but has decided to wait till after the Asian Games in September.

“Till the Asian Games, he will remain in this (67kg) category, after that we will change it,” Sharma said.

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Bindyarani Devi has also moved back from 59kg to 55kg.

The 24-year-old had finished 25th at the Worlds in the 59kg Olympic weight class. However, an injury before the selection trials has forced her to move back to her original weight division.

Reigning national champions Shubham Todkar (61kg) and Narayana Ajith will be making their international debuts.

The Asian Championship is the qualifying event for the 2024 Paris Olympics, where weightlifting events will be cut from 14 at Tokyo Games to 10.

However, it is an additional event and not a compulsory one.

Under the 2024 Olympic qualification rule, a lifter has to compulsorily compete in the 2023 World Championships and the 2024 World Cup.

Apart from the two, the lifter also has to participate in three of the events from among the 2022 World Championships, 2023 Continental Championships, 2023 Grand Prix 1, 2023 Grand Prix II and 2024 Continental Championships.

Indian Squad: Mirabai Chanu (49kg), Bindyarani Devi (55kg), Shubham Todkar (61kg), Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), Achinta Sheuli (73kg), Narayana Ajith (73kg).