When India keeps an eye on me, it generates power to perform: Mirabai Chanu

Mirabai Chanu and Vijay Sharma. Source: X

Mirabai Chanu won silver in the 49kg women’s weightlifting at the Tokyo Olympics. But the years since have not been easy ones. There was another silver at the World Championships in Bogota in 2022, and gold in the Commonwealth Games the same year, but the Asian Games medal she covets continued to be elusive after a thigh injury saw her limp off the stage in Hangzhou. After months of recovery, Mirabai, who turns 30 in August, is on the comeback trail. In this exclusive interview, she and Vijay Sharma, the national weightlifting coach, spoke to Boria Majumdar, RevSportz editor-in-chief, about the hopes of another podium finish in Paris. Excerpts:

Boria: Vijay Sir and Mira, Thank you very much for your time. First question to Mira, are you finally pain-free? How are you feeling now health wise?

Mirabai: First of all, Namaste to everyone. Yes, the pain was there during the Asian Games, but I was willing to win a medal for India. Hence, I tried my best, but the luck was not in my favour. However, now I am in a much better condition and have started training, reached 70-80 per cent already. So, a much better position and step by step, the training is going on.

Boria: Vijay sir, how much were these last 4-5 months difficult for both of you?

Vijay: Namaskar, Boria Ji. I have been in touch with you, and not only Mira, every player goes through injuries as those are an integral part [of life] for any player. In 2018 Asian Games, we faced the back issue and now, again in the Asian Games, the thigh injury came in. So, for any player, if they need to miss their training sessions to visit doctors, that upsets players mentally. All your plans get ruined, and you need to start it again from the scratch. Good news is that we got good medical facilities, treatment started quickly, and started to get positive vibes. The competition recently, she participated under good conditions, it gave confidence to me and Mira both.

Boria: Mira, what plans do you have made for the Olympics with Vijay sir?

Mirabai: Whatever sir will tell me, I will try my best to do so. As of now, trainings have been going well and hoping to continue that. I will give my best again to win a medal for India at the Olympics.

Boria: Is there any pressure that you feel, Mira? Because the whole of India will look for a medal from you again this time around.

Mirabai: I feel the pressure, but take it in a positive way. When I know that the whole of India is keeping an eye on me, having hope from me, it helps to generate some power to perform. It motivates and also points out that it is the moment where I can do something for all these people who are cheering.

Boria: Sir, can you elaborate on the plans for the next 4-5 months?

Vijay: Boria ji, if everything goes well by the grace of God, then our training centre in Patiala is world-class. SAI recently renovated that and hence, our priority will be to be in Patiala and make the most out of those facilities. Till June last week, we will be in Patiala and in July, the Government have approved us for a training camp in Paris for the last four weeks before the competition. This is the plan as of now, but if any issue occurs, we will be in Patiala only.

Boria: If Mira is fully fit, realistically a medal is possible? Can we dream of a medal?

Vijay: Dada, see just now we came back from a competition. All players who will participate in the  Olympics ran away from this competition. Results are in front of everyone, and apart from the girls from China and North Korea, no one was able to manage 200 kg in total. So, I think, if we train properly and no injury happens, medal will not be an issue for us. What will be the colour of the medal, that cannot be said because there’s still a lot of time left. All will depend on how we prepare, and the conditions where we compete. But I am assuring you that my mind has been telling me that a medal is guaranteed for the country. At any cost, we will bring it as we will prepare for it very hard.  

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Mirabhai Chanu
Mirabhai Chanu (PC: X)

Boria: The setback in thr Asian Games, how difficult was it for you in terms of mental health?

Mirabai: Yes, lots of thoughts come in my mind as two Asian Games I have missed. But then, I think that nothing to worry, keep preparing for coming days. Try to keep myself strong and look for the areas where I can improve. I talk with sir and keep myself strong to perform better. If I do good in a competition, I look to better in the next. If a competition goes bad, then I look for the areas to improve.

Boria: Vijay Sir, as you said earlier, it was Mira who insisted on taking part in the Asian Games. Personally, you were not willing to as the injury could have affected her Paris dreams. So, how difficult was that whole scenario?  

Vijay: Our calculation was right as the pain started during the snatch. I told her not to proceed further as the injury could have worsened. But, due to her willingness to win a medal in Asian Games, she told me that sir, let me try atleast once. However, we all know what happened next, but you have to give credit for her dedication. Ultimately, we should not have competed in that tournament.

Boria: Mira, are you happy with the facilities you have got so far?

Mirabai: Yes, very happy. The facilities you get here, support of federation, everything has been brilliant. All players want this kind of support to prepare properly. So, I am extremely happy and SAI have helped a lot. The centre we have, you cannot get that anywhere. So, very happy.

Boria: How much pressure is there on Vijay Sharma?

Vijay: Definitely, pressure is there as anything good or bad that happens will be my responsibility. Always try to keep all things planned properly in terms of training programs, training places. Pressure is there, but trying to handle that in a positive way.         

Also Read: Want to win Olympic gold: Lakshya Sen

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