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Weightlifting Redemption Comes in Gold



In a sport previously tarnished by doping scandals, the glory of redemption was not an easy feat for the small but determined Indian, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu. With other competitors such as China, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine facing outright bans in the World Weightlifting Championships for 2017, Chanu knew that she had to prove herself more than the usual. Proving one’s self took an ultimate hyperbole as she literally had to bear out numerous tests to verify whether she was dope free more than 45 times. The IWF was leaving no stone unturned before, during and after the competition. Beyond that was demonstrating that she can actually win the event.



Chanu had to address a long standing medal drought for India in the weightlifting category for women. With her on the clear when it comes to performance enhancing substances, the stage was set in Anaheim, California last November 30, 2017. History was made again after 22 long years as Chanu won the 48kg Women’s Weightlifting Category. The last time India won in this event was when Karman Malleswari won a bronze medal in 1994 and 1995. She was the first Indian woman to win this feat.



The victory itself couldn’t come any sweeter as Chanu’s path was paved with gruelling doping tests plus a disappointing finish in the previous year’s Rio Olympics. On a personal level, Chanu had to sacrifice by not being able to attend her sister’s wedding which happened during the competition. Perhaps more than proving herself in a competition which banned several countries for a year, it was a redemption for the sport itself which was plagued by the use of performance enhancing drugs that made the IWF turn the entire sport upside down.

Beyond the tests, the psychological barrier and the close scrutiny of an entire nation wanting victory was a remarkable achievement. Chanu was able to lift a total of 194 kg. 85 kg. for snatch and 109 kg. for clean and jerk. Her closest competitor, the younger Thunya Sukcharoen from Thailand finished with 193 kg. 86 kg. for snatch and 107 kg. for clean and jerk.  



Phenomenal mental focus and a dedicated training regimen played a huge factor in Chanu’s victory. After her defeat in the previous year’s competition, Chanu seriously thought about giving up and throwing in the towel. Nobody could blame her in a high stress sport that demands peak psychological and physical preparation.

Moreover, the numerous tests repeatedly administered several times can impact a trainer’s mental state. The cloud of suspicion imposed by the weightlifting body can weigh heavily and impact the performance if an athlete is not focused. Chanu brushed these all off by gamely declaring that she had nothing to hide. This is true sportsmanship that elevates and hopefully redresses the scandals of previous competitions. Honor and glory in the form of tears fell down from Chanu’s face as the culmination of her very much deserved efforts transpired in the form of a gold medal.

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