Weightlifters Sathish, Mirabai to represent India at Rio Olympics

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Weightlifters Sathish, Mirabai to represent India at Rio Olympics

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Arun S Kaimal


Indian weightlifters Sathish Kumar Sivalingam and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu will represent the country in the men’s and women’s weight categories respectively at the Olympics after topping the selection trials. India had earned two quota places for Rio at Senior Asian Championships in Tashkent in April.

Sathish Kumar earned the berth for Rio after finishing top among the male weightlifters in the 77kg division with a total lift of 336kg. The 23-year-old from Tamil Nadu lifted 151kg in snatch and 185kg in clean & jerk.

“I’m so happy, and this is perhaps the best day of my life. All the hard work that I had to put in to recover from the back injury, and all the sacrifices that my family and I have made, have been vindicated by this. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Sathish told the New Indian Express.

On the other hand, Mirabai Chanu defeated statemate and close friend Sanjita Chanu for the ticket to Rio and finished at the top among women weightlifters, smashing the national record held by Olympian and women’s national coach Kunjarani Devi in the 48kg category. The 21-year-old from Manipur bettered her own record in snatch by lifting 85kg and equalled the record of N Kunjarani Devi (107kg) in clean and jerk to break the national record with a combined lift of 192kg.

“I witnessed some fantastic lifting today and I’m proud that Sathish and Mirabai have made the cut. As a former lifter and someone who has been to the Summer Games, I know it requires a lot of sacrifices to reach this point. I pray to god that they go to Rio and put in the best display they can,” Kunjarani told the New Indian Express.

The selection trials for the Olympics were held in Patiala, and lifters for each category were selected on the basis of their performance at 2012 London Olympics and the World rankings. Weightlifting Federation of India (IWF) President Birendra Prasad Baishya revealed that one more quota place could still come India’s way with the final allocations of quotas yet to be finalised.

“With the final list of qualified lifters still to be decided, there is still a chance for one more quota to be grabbed by us. Also, an exposure trip to Sao Paulo has been finalised,” he said.

The lifters will now travel to Sao Paulo for the 30-day exposure trip in an attempt to prepare for the quadrennial event. Vikas Thakur and Sanjita Chanu will also accompany Sathish and Mirabai as training partners. But, one person who will not be travelling to the Olympics will be women's national coach Kunjarani Devi. Coaches Sandeep Kumar and Vijay Sharma, along with physio Akrant Saxena will travel with the Indian contingent as support staffs, leaving the former Olympian not at all happy with the decision.

“As someone who has been to previous Olympics, apart from various other prestigious meets, I bring a wealth of experience to the table. Also, when there is a female lifter going as part of the squad, it makes sense to send a women’s coach along, as we can communicate better, and I’ll know her needs and preferences. I am fed up of the constant politics that the federation plays, and it’s reached a stage where I can’t take it anymore,” a displeased Kunjarani told the New Indian Express.

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