At her strained worst when she did a 96kg on her final lift in Clean & Jerk, Sanjita Chanu Khumukcham’s left eyelid shrunk a wee bit more than the right one and unwittingly fluttered.
Sure every sinew of her limbs was being over-reached, like it would when you haul up a total of 173 kg. But in what was one of the most commanding performances by an Indian athlete in comparison to the rest of the field to win India its first Commonwealth Games gold, Sanjita was head and shoulders above everyone else at the SECC centre on Day 1.
She’s actually only 4’11”, 47.74 kg at weigh-in. A Manipuri who likes to wear her gold clasp-earrings and leash her straight tresses firmly with bright red hairpins. But keeping a nonchalant visage throughout her 6 lifts in snatch and clean & jerk, and transforming into a Girl-Hercules intermittently when called upon the stage, Sanjita looked quite assured, though she was entrusted the job of getting India off the mark.
Her three attempts in snatch were seamless – ground to eye level and above the head in one neat movement as she stopped at 77 kg, just enough to stake claims on the medal, and refusing to gun for the record at 78 kg.
“My job was to win the medal. I didn’t want to think of anything else,” she said later, so elated that she feared she won’t feel hungry for days. “I’m full with the medal,” she said flashing her wide smile.
In her first clean & jerk, she stuttered and registered a No Lift. “You know I got scared, and a hundred doubts entered my head. I was ranked 1, I was supposed to win, but I was a little shaken by that first attempt. I thought too much,” she explained, her index finger accusingly poking the side of the head repeatedly.
96kg on her final lift needed a louder war-cry, but it was like watching an engine start, as she inhaled noisily and then hit the routine of heave to the shoulder and a steady jerk.
There was Australian Tegan Napper, she of the model looks and winsome smile, who had dared to grin wide before she dropped the bar in her final. Sanjita was not to be left behind, and ensured she smiled for the lensmen before she was done with the 96.
“It’s a start for her now, from here she should target the big ones,” said Kunjarani Devi, Khel Ratna and former star, now coach and the one person in that hall who could put into perspective the gold and goad Sanjita to think big and look ahead. She still awaits anyone in 48kg in India to break her record of 190 kg total.
Sanjita though continued…