When she returned to India, she decided to meet weightlifting legend and the first Indian female Olympic medallist Karnam Malleswari and asked her to review her Rio Olympic performance.
The pep talk and advice from Karnam worked well for the 26-year-old.
Mirabai, who failed to lift 103kg and then 106kg in her first attempt in clean and jerk in Rio, put her Olympics horror show behind her and went on to win the gold medal at the 2017 World Championships (48kg) and then clinched another gold medal (48kg) at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.
Image credit: Mirabai Chanu’s Twitter handle
Her most recent was in the 2020 Asian Championships in Tashkent where she bagged a bronze medal (49kg).
“Mira has been training really hard. She has been training abroad only. She is looking in good touch. She has got good exposure and has a good team. She has improved a lot. I am confident that she will 100 percent bring a medal. She will surely win a medal in Tokyo. Her medal will be a huge boost to the weightlifting family. You will see a different Mira in Tokyo,” Karnam told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
Image credit: Mirabai Chanu’s Twitter handle
The 46-year-old 2000 Sydney Olympics bronze medallist advises Mira not to take any pressure and focus on one lift at a time.
“When she came from Rio, she had met me and discussed a number of things. She asked me about Olympic pressure and how to take her game forward. After Rio, she has performed really well in international competitions. All I want to convey to Mira with the help of TimesofIndia.com is that don’t take pressure and don’t think about medals. Just go and give your best and focus one lift at a time. If she gives her best without thinking of a medal, she will automatically be on the medals tally,” Karnam said.
2000 SYDNEY OLYMPICS GLORY
Karnam lifted a total of 240 kgs (110 in snatch and 130 in Clean & Jerk) to bag a bronze medal (69kg) at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. China’s Lin Weining clinched the gold medal with a total life of 242.5 and the silver went to Hungary’s Erzsébet Markus who lifted a total of 242.5.
Karnam attempted a lift of 137.5 kg in her final Clean & Jerk attempt but failed. Since the gold and silver medallists Weining and Markus also failed to lift in their final attempts, a successful 137.5kg Clean & Jerk attempt would have given her a gold medal.
“It’s been 21 years but it feels like yesterday. I still get goosebumps, whenever I recall that day. I feel really happy when people remind me of that day. I feel so proud. Honestly, I wasn’t happy after winning the medal because I couldn’t win the gold medal. I failed in the last lift (in Clean & Jerk). I missed out on the gold by 2 kgs. I was really disappointed. That pain is still there. Because you can’t slip up in the world’s biggest competition,” Karnam further told TimesofIndia.com.
Karnam Malleswari (Image credit: Olympics.com)
“I could have won the gold, but yes I am proud that I won a medal for my country and became the first female Olympic medallist from India. My Olympic medal opened doors for many women in the country. After my medal, I am really happy to see many women athletes who have won medals for the country,” the 46-year-old said.
Why haven’t Indian weightlifters managed to win an Olympic medal after Karnam’s Sydney Games glory?
“The reason is lack of support at the grassroot level. When you reach a level, then you get proper support. We need to go and find talent at the grassroot level. I am also from a small village. I also had to work really hard to reach such a level. The players come from interiors and they need exposure. There is no infrastructure and coaching facilities at the grassroot level. Facilities haven’t reached where the talent is. We need to go and find talent and provide them facilities and training,” she said.
“Weightlifting has changed. In my day, we used to practice on soil. We didn’t have shoes and had to practice barefoot. I worked really hard to reach the national and then the international level. We didn’t have many facilities. We didn’t have medical facilities. We didn’t have any doctor or physio. Only the manager and coach used to travel with us. That has changed now. There are a lot of facilities today. Athletes are being sent abroad for training. They are provided with the best doctors and physios. There is a huge facility of sports medicine and sports injury. There are a lot of changes. And these changes are very good. Considering the level of the competition, these changes are good for our athletes,” she further said.
‘MARY, SINDHU FAVOURITES’
Karnam is confident that boxing icon Mary Kom and badminton queen PV Sindhu will win their second Olympic medals in Tokyo. Mary won a bronze medal in the London Games, while Sindhu bagged a silver in the Rio Olympics. She had lost to Spain’s Carolina Marin in the final.
“Apart from weightlifting, India will win medals in shooting, wrestling, and boxing. Both Mary and Sindhu are my favourites. I am sure they will win their second Olympic medals in Tokyo,” Karnam signed off.