Saikhom Merabai Chanu earned her Olympic berth in the Rio 2016 Olympics ticket after breaking the national record in the Olympics trials held in Patiala. She dazzled everyone at the trials for the Olympics where she had lifted 85kg in snatch and 107 kg in clean and jerk, which gave her a total of 192kg and helped her, qualify for the Games.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, an Indian weightlifter was born on 8 August 1994 in East Imphal, Manipur, India. Mirabai made her dream an obsession and always went the extra mile to achieve it. Her family’s financial problems meant that she could not afford the daily diet of milk and chicken prescribed to all sportspersons. During her childhood days there were no weightlifting center in her village and she had to travel 60km to the training centre every day. Whether it was travelling 60 km a day for training, or tackling economic hardships, she refused to let her circumstances define her life.
She is an impressive talent who began weightlifting in 2007 at Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Imphal, India. It all started with a dream when she was nine years old. After watching Kunjarani Devi’s performance at the 2004 Olympics, Mirabai dreamt of holding a medal on the podium. That was her calling and she never looked back. She has been a consistent performer right from her junior days. Once she got started, there was simply no stopped her; at 11, she won gold at the sub-junior level and went on to repeat her excellent performance at the junior nationals in 2011. She clinched the gold medal at the 2011 International Youth Championship, and another at the South Asian Junior Games. She was awarded the title of Best Lifter at the 2013 Junior National Championship in Guwahati, India. It was her phenomenal performances in these competitions that caught the eye of the officials, who undoubtedly considered her to be the athlete to watch out for in the future.
A major advantage for Chanu is the fact that she is trained by Kunjarani Devi, one of the most decorated Indian sportswomen in weightlifting. She considers Kunjarani Devi to be her inspiration, and looks up to her when it comes to the art of weightlifting. Chanu had represented India at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where she showed some excellent performances on her journey to clinch the silver medal in the women’s 48kg class by lifting a total of 170kgs and Gold medal in the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati in 2016. At the Asian Championships in Tashkent in April this year, she had broken Devi’s record in the snatch with a lift of 84kg and matched the Indian record for total lift with a combined total of 190kg.
With her performance at the selection trials in Patiala for the Rio 2016 Olympics, Mirabai Chanu had lifted 85kg in the snatch and 107kg in the clean and jerk for a total lift of 192 kg. She created a new national record, twice, while claiming her Olympic berth. She broke the 12-year-old national record, originally held by her coach and veteran weightlifter Kunjarani Devi, by lifting the largest total in the 48 kg category. Mirabai Chanu showed immense promise and was the best finisher among women competitors across all weight categories in the qualifiers. However, she finished seventh in the 2016 Asian Championship, which shows that she still has a lot to catch up with.
Mirabai qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the women’s 48 Kg category. However, she failed to finish the event as she failed to lift the weight in any of her three attempts in clean & jerk section. She had poor start in the 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. However, she could not pick up 84kg in her third attempt, thereby finishing sixth in snatch out of 12 competitors in the field. Nevertheless Mirabai Chanu has come this far because of her continued involvement with the sports she loved and she has battled against all odds to achieve accolade in her chosen field.