Mirabai Chanu's Head Coach Unperturbed By 55kg Entry Rejection For CWG, Says It Won't Affect India's Medal Haul
The 27-year-old Mirabai Chanu will now compete in the 49kg category. Chanu had qualified for the CWG in 49kg, in which she won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, owing to her top rank, as well as the 55kg weight class, for which she competed in a qualifier.
The rejection of Mirabai Chanu's 55 kg entry for the upcoming Commonwealth Games by the International Weightlifting Federation will not affect India's medal chances in the Birmingham event, head coach Vijay Sharma said on Thursday. The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) had wanted to field Chanu in the 55kg weight division with Jhilli Dalabehera and S Bindyarani Devi competing in the 49kg and 59kg respectively, while Poppy Hazarika was to compete in the 64kg division at the CWG, to be held from July 28 to August 8.
The move was aimed at maximising India's medal haul in the CWG. But the entries were rejected based on a new rule that states that the top-ranked lifter in a category will qualify for the CWG. But, if s/he withdraws, the next best lifter will not get the berth, as was the case before.
The 27-year-old Chanu will now compete in the 49kg category. Chanu had qualified for the CWG in 49kg, in which she won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, owing to her top rank, as well as the 55kg weight class, for which she competed in a qualifier.
"They rejected the entry by saying a lifter can participate in that category where they have performed their best," Sharma told PTI from St Louis, USA, where he is overseeing Chanu's training.
Chanu has only once competed in the 55kg weight class before --- at the Singapore Weightlifting International last month, which was a qualifying event for the CWG. Bindyarani is the top ranked Indian in this division.
"We were trying that she (Chanu) qualifies in both category. But the rule has changed. CGF has taken out a new rule that only the top-ranked lifters can qualify in the category not the second ranked.
"In the Olympics also the rule was if you withdraw one lifter then the other lift in the same weight class will qualify," Sharma said.
This means that Chanu, Bindya and Poppy now move back a weight class each to 49kg, 55kg and 59kg respectively, leaving India with no lifter to field in the 64kg division.
But Sharma is confident that the development will not change India's medal hopes.
"We had no lifter who could qualify for 64kg, it is a very difficult category. That is why we were planning this, with Jhilli in 49kg, Mira in 55kg and Bindya in 59kg we would have secured three medals," he said.
"Even before we had no hopes for the 64 kg weight class. It was just to field a lifter. Chances of winning a medal in the women's event was in these three category (49kg, 55kg and 59kg) only and they are still remain." Chanu has achieved a lot of success competing in the 49kg weight division, including winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She also holds the clean and jerk world record in this weight class.
Before that, she used to compete in the 48kg class, winning the world championship gold in 2017. She also won 48kg silver and gold in the 2014 and 2018 CWG respectively.
Bindyarani won a silver at the Commonwealth Championship in the 55kg event in December last year.
India are the powerhouse at the Commonwealth level. At the 2018 edition the Indians had returned with a haul of nine medals -- five golds, two silver and as many bronze.