Mirabai Chanu gave India a reason to smile on Thursday after clinching the country’s first weightlifting World Championships gold medal since 1995. The gold medal was an upset of sorts, considering that Mirabai’s combined lift of 194kg — 85kg in snatch and 109kg in clean and jerk — was one kg over the best attempt of the overwhelming favourite from Thailand, Thunya Sukcharoen, in the women’s 48kg category.
Mirabai’s gold medal — India’s first at the prestigious World Championships since Karnam Malleswari’s medal in 1995 — also presented the 23-year-old lifter with redemption of sorts as she had failed to get an overall total in the women’s 48kg event at last year’s Rio Olympics, which was her debut appearance at the grandest stage of all. She later admitted she suffered a bad bout of nerves, which led her to successfully lift just one of her six attempts — three in snatch and three in clean and jerk.
Mirabai could not lift any of her attempts in clean and jerk — a 104kg try followed by two 106kg tries — while in snatch, she got only her second attempt correct out of the three chances. After failing to lift 82kg in her first attempt, she managed to somehow hold on to the weight in her second chance.
Mirabai has been widely seen as a successor to Malleswari, who won a bronze medal for India at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The World Championships gold is another reason to mark her as one of India’s brightest prospects in the discipline. She has previously clinched a silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a gold medal at the 12th South Asian Games in 2016.
Mirabai made waves while qualifying for the Rio Olympics by breaking two national records — the first, a 12-year-old record held by veteran weightlifter Kunjarani Devi when she lifted 192kg at the selection trials; and then her own record by lifting 85kg in the snatch event. In fact, her attempt would have been good enough to fetch her a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012.