Former world champion Mirabai Chanu will be a strong contender for an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, Indian Weightlifting Federation secretary general Sahdev Yadav said on Monday.
The 2017 World Champion, who also won the 48kg gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, is currently ranked fourth with a best lift of 201kg ahead of the Asian Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Chinese duo of Zhihui Hou (211kg) and Huihua Jiang (212kg) currently lead the rankings as a total of 13 lifters make the cut for Tokyo Olympics in every category with the Kazakhstan event (April 16-25) being the final Olympic qualification.
“We are guaranteed of a silver by Mirabai. Our fight will be with China for a gold,” Yadav said on the sidelines of the 72nd Men’s and 35th Senior Women’s National Weightlifting Championships at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra here.
The 25-year-old Manipuri, who competes in the 49kg, lifted 86 kg in snatch and a personal best of 113 kg in clean and jerk for a total of 199 kg at the Asian Championships in April last year to miss the bronze medal by a whisker.
Her best came at the World championship in September when she breached the 200-kg mark by lifting her personal best en route to a total of 201 kg but only to miss the bronze again.
But Yadav has high hopes that Mirabai, who had failed to finish her event at Rio Olympics, will peak in Kazakhstan.
“We expect her to top the rankings in Kazakhstan. And mark my words, if she manages to do that there will be no stopping her in Tokyo, so much so that the Chinese might pull out fearing a loss,” Yadav claimed.
He further said Jeremy Lalrinnunga, who became the first Indian to win a gold at the Youth Olympic Games, is also fancied to qualify for the Olympics in men’s 67 kg.
“But our target is to keep him ready for 2024. We want to have three medal hopefuls at Los Angeles,” Yadav said.
As for the preparation, IWF has planned to send the Olympic-bound lifters, 20 days in advance so that they can acclimatise with the conditions.
“It will be very hot then. We don’t want to go too early so we have planned to reach there 20 days in advance,” Yadav said.
The government gave a substantial hike of Rs 312.42 crore to its flagship Khelo India programme but the highest reduction was seen in National Sports Federations with Rs 245.00 crore being allocated in the Union budget, Rs 55 crore less than the revised Rs 300.85 for 2019-20.
“We never asked to raise the budget. Whatever is given to us is enough and still we’re left with money. Last year we refunded Rs 1 crore. We never faced any problem, the Ministry has provided us with all the world class facilities in Patiala.”
Yadav, however, complained of the Rs 5 lakh allocation for the Senior Nationals and demanded that the budget should be increased to atleast Rs 50 lakh.
“Even the rent for the electronic scorecard costs us Rs 3 lakh for five days. Add the cost of transport, accommodation for 300 lifters and 50 officials,” he lamented.