Indian weightlifters have won a couple of medals – one bronze and silver each - at the Olympics but they have never won a gold medal at the Asian Games.
Shri Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, a silver medalist at Tokyo 2020, is one of India's brightest medal hopes at the 19th Asian Games, scheduled to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from September 23 to October 8.
The 29-year-old Manipuri lifter has a grand collection of medals in her chosen sport. She has prioritised the Asian Games as a medal in the continental event is the only accolade missing from her decorated cabinet. She had been in great form ahead of the 2018 Asian Games, but was forced to pull out of the event after failing to recover from a lower back injury.
An Olympic silver medallist, a world champion and a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Chanu is confident of rewriting the nation's weightlifting history at Hangzhou 2022 by finishing on the centre of the podium in the 49kg category. She is also looking to achieve a personal milestone - 90kg mark in snatch - at the continental event.
Excerpts from an interview:
You are an Olympic silver medalist. Is a medal at the Asian Games a foregone conclusion?
The competition at international level is always stiff, be it the Olympics or the Asian Games. At Hangzhou, we will have to quell the challenge of weightlifting powerhouses like China and Thailand. Another strong team in the fray is North Korea, which did not take part in the last Olympics
Will you be able to breach the elusive 90kg mark in snatch?
I believe it is only a matter of time before I touch the 90kg milestone. I think the only reason I could not achieve that feat was because I was injured for a long time. At the same time, I know reaching 96kg, the world record in snatch, will not be easy for me.
You won India's first medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Will you be able to repeat the feat at Hangzhou 2022?
My event is on September 30. Many Indians have their competitions scheduled before that. I hope all of them will do enough to finish on the podium.