The first Indian weightlifter in over two decades to claim a World Championship gold, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu says the triumph did not just lessen the pain of her Olympic failure but also ensured that missing her elder sister’s wedding was not for nothing.
Chanu became the second Indian after Karnam Malleswari when she bagged the yellow metal at the marquee event in Anaheim, USA.
“I missed my elder sister’s wedding that took place a few days ago in India. But I am happy that the sacrifice that I made has paid off as I won a gold medal,” she told PTI from Anaheim.
“When I spoke to my mother after winning the medal, she started crying as she knows what all I have been through en-route to this achievement. She was happy that missing my sister’s wedding has not gone in vain,” said an emotion Chanu.
During the medal ceremony, Chanu broke into tears while seeing the tricolour from the podium.
“I was sure of winning a medal but never thought that I would end up finishing with a gold. So when I saw the flag after wearing the gold medal around my neck, I just could not stop my tears. I got very very emotional,” the Manipuri said.
“I have been training hard in Patiala, not gone home for a long time. But today it all seem worth,” she added.
The 23-year-old from Imphal lifted 85kg in snatch and 109kg in clean and jerk to total an impressive 194kg in the women’s 48kg to pick up a rare honour for India. She also created a new national record of 194kg.
Olympic bronze medallist Malleshwari had won the top prize in the World Championships twice — in 1994 and 1995.
Kunjarani Devi had also won several medals — mostly silver but never a gold — in the World Championships between 1989 to 1999.
“I wanted to emulate Malleshwari ma’am. I always had this thought at the back of my mind that India has not won a gold in over two decades and I really wanted to achieve it but actually winning it is like a dream come true,” said Chanu.
With this achievement, she exorcised the ghosts of her forgettable outing at the Rio Olympics last year and Chanu said she worked extremely hard to minimise her mistakes in the last one year.
“At Rio, I gave a very bad performance, especially in clean and jerk category. I assessed my mistakes that I committed at the Olympics and worked very hard to improve on those.
“This medal has lessened my pain of not doing well in Rio. I am still sad about that but the gold has surely reduced that agony,” she said.
Chanu gave credit to her national coach Vijay Sharma for her success.
“I owe a lot to my coach Vijay sir for this medal. I trained very very hard under his guidance. He worked equally hard with me and trained me very well. That showed in the result today. Along with Vijay sir, the Federation also provided me a lot of help.”
The youngest of the six brothers and sisters, Chanu said she would work even harder so that she can win medals at next year’s Commonwealth and Asian Games, and then at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I will work harder and will look to improve upon the gray areas in my game. I will not make the same mistakes again. I will certainly improve and make sure that I win medals at future tournaments.
“I am looking to do well at next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asiad and then work even harder for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” said Chanu.