BIRMINGHAM: Weightlifter Punam Yadav was one of the favourites to win a medal for India this time, having bagged gold at the previous edition in Gold Coast. But the 76kg lifting final proved to be a massive heartbreak for Punam as well as the country.
After lifting 98kg in snatch to be placed second going into the clean and jerk, Punam’s all three clean and jerk attempts were deemed ‘no lift’.
The 27-year-old’s first two attempts of 116kg were called foul because of a bent elbow. According to rules, a lifter’s hand has to be straight while lifting. If not, the lift is considered invalid.
But it was the third lift that raised eyebrows at the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull.
Punam did seem to successfully lift 116kg in her third attempt, but according to the officials present at the venue, she dropped the bar before getting the signal from the referees for a clean lift. The officials came to the conclusion that she did not wait until the sound of the buzzer, which the referees press for a clean lift, before dropping the weight back down on the floor.
The Indian coaching staff, led by chief coach Vijay Sharma, immediately challenged the call and a video referral was done, but the challenge was overturned.
After her lifts, Punam, speaking to TOI, said, “I saw the referees smile at me after I had lifted the barbell over my head. I felt I had hoisted the weight for a good amount of time. In fact, I thought it to be an affirmative nod from their side. I thought that they had pressed the buzzer.”
A source in the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) later said, “She could’ve done better. We missed out on a medal. She came into the tournament with a knee injury. Before the Games, we had got her scans done and the injury was very apparent. We wanted somebody else to go in her place but the doctor gave her a go-ahead.
“We still asked her to not take the risk. But she was confident that she would manage.”
Questioned whether she was indeed carrying a knee injury into the tournament, Punam said, “No, there isn’t any such serious injury. Some niggles are always there. It’s part and parcel of being an athlete. I wouldn’t risk so much, if I had indeed suffered any grievous injury.”