The likes of Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra, four-time Worlds medallist Bajrang Punia, three-time CWG champion Vinesh Phogat or All England Open finalist Lakshya Sen might be missing from action at the National Games Gujarat to give their injured and tired bodies much-needed rest.
That wasn’t the case with Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Mirabai, who risked aggravating her left wrist injury sustained a week ago during one of her training sessions in NIS Patiala to clinch her first-ever National Games gold in the women’s 49kg category at the Mahatma Mandir Exhibition Centre on Friday.
Happy on winning gold medal in the 36th National Games 2022 in Gujarat. https://t.co/AKTBQBni6f
— Saikhom Mirabai Chanu (@mirabai_chanu) 1664529392000
The diminutive Manipuri weightlifter’s passage to the gold was smooth – she wasn’t troubled by any of her challengers in the eight-woman final field. But her wrist injury did play a role in letting go of the final attempt in snatch and clean & jerk sections. However, the gold was already decided in Mirabai’s favour by that time.
She lifted a total of 191kg (84kg snatch + 107kg clean & jerk) to finish on the top of the podium, followed by fellow Manipuri and two-time CWG gold medallist Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu (187kg) and Odisha’s Sneha Soren (169kg). Sanjita is on a comeback trail after her name was cleared of the doping charge by the international weightlifting federation (IWF) two years ago. In the process, Mirabai also secured Manipur’s first gold medal in the ongoing edition of the Games.
“We had the MRI done on my injured left wrist. It happened during one of the training sessions in NIS Patiala while I was lifting heavy weights. Yes, I played through the injury and that’s why I didn’t attempt my final lifts. Proper recovery hasn’t been achieved and my physio is helping me in the rehabilitation,” Mirabai said.
Here’s Our Champ @mirabai_chanu 🏋️ sharing her experience after winning Gold 🥇in the 49kg weight category 🤩 at the… https://t.co/WQcUEKpp2e
— SAI Media (@Media_SAI) 1664524173000
So, didn’t she fear aggravating her injury? “I wanted to participate in the Games. It’s happening after a gap of seven years, and I wanted to win the gold for Manipur. Also, I wanted to test my endurance level and confidence before heading to the World weightlifting championships in Colombia in December, which will act as an Olympic qualifier for Paris 2024. I came to the Games without proper training after injuring my wrist. The effort was always to protect my wrist and that’s why I didn’t push too much looking for records or personal bests. I think in a week or 10 days, it should be fine,” she added.
A month ago, Mirabai and seven other top Indian weightlifters had decided to skip the upcoming Asian Championships in Bahrain from October 6 to 16 to remain injury-free and focus on the Worlds, before flying to St Louis in the USA for a three-and-half-week strength and conditioning training camp.
At the Games, Mirabai also achieved a kind-of-first, in her own way. For the first time in her professional career, she attended the opening ceremony of a multi-sport event.
“I was super excited. I never attended a single opening ceremony, be it the Olympics, Asian Games or the CWG, because my competition matches will always be scheduled for the next morning. Every time I have to skip it, but not this time. People would think that since there wasn’t enough competition in my weight category, I attended it. But, let me clarify that I don’t take any competition lightly and, for me, it’s always about giving my best no matter what.” Mirabai had returned to her hotel in Gandhinagar around 10pm on Thursday after attending the ceremony and was present at the competition venue the next day at 9am for her weigh-in.
For Mirabai, winning the Asian Games medal – the only title missing from her glittering trophy cabinet – is the ultimate target. “I have never participated at the Asiad. I skipped the last edition (Jakarta 2018) because of a back injury. This time I am all geared up to bring India its first medal in the weightlifting competition at the Games. For that, I am aiming to lift 90kg in snatch and 120kg in clean and jerk,” she signed off.