Birmingham: The audience at the NEC Hall here in Birmingham, including the huge number of Indian fans, had their hearts in their mouths for a fraction of a second as the pint-sized superstar Mirabai Chanu stumbled with her third and final snatch lift at 90kg.
Seconds later, there was a collective sigh of relief. She was fine.
As the evening progressed, Mirabai ensured the Indian National Anthem was played as she stitched up the gold with bests of 88kg in snatch and 113kg in Clean & Jerk for a new Games record total of 201kg.
After hoisting weights of 84kg and 88kg almost nonchalantly in her first two snatch lifts in the weightlifting competition at the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Saturday (July 30), Mirabai asked for 89kg and before coming to the platform she further increased it to 90kg.
She had begun the evening, needing to compete only with herself for gold. Now she was trying to better her own record. Again.
While attempting 90kg, the tiny less-than-foot tall Mirabai seemed to ‘stumble’; dropped the weight and rolled over. But she was immediately up and smiling, much to the relief of the audience. Her successful lift of 88kg armed her with a 12kg lead ahead of Clean & Jerk.
Mirabai once again entered the Clean & Jerk competition when all others had finished. She asked for the bar to be loaded 109kg, as against the planned 105kg. She hoisted 109kg and with that she secured the first gold for India at Birmingham.
When she raised it to 113 kg her total crossed the 200-mark to reach 201kg, a whopping 29kg more than the second-placed Marie Hanitra Roilya Ranaivosoa 172 kg (76 kg plus 96kg). The bronze went to Hannah Kaminski 171 kg (74kg plus 97kg). Mirabai finally asked for 115kg, but just as in the snatch, she failed.
Her own Clean & Jerk record stands at 119kg, but that has been left for another day.
Earlier in the first session, Mirabai entered the snatch competition at 84kg, when all others were done. The next best of 76kg came from 2018 silver medallist Marie Hanitra Roilya Ranaivosoa of Mauritius. Mirabai made light of 84kg and it was the same with her next attempt at 88kgs, a new Games record. But she failed at 90kg.
The two-time African Games champion Ranaivosoa was second in snatch with 76kg, while Stella Peter Kingsley of Nigeria was third with 75kg. Two other lifters – Papua New Guinea’s Dika Toua Lou and Canadian Hannah Kaminski had 74kg each.
Kaminski later pipped Dika Toua Lou and Stella Kinglsey to the bronze.
In the last edition of the Commonwealth Games, Indian lifters brought home a rich haul of nine medals including five gold medals.
At 27, Mirabai is already a legend in India and much has been written about her, but no story is as endearing or wonderful as the one about her friendship and regard for the truck drivers, who would give her a lift to her training venue some 25km from her village, Nongpok Kakching, in Manipur to the Sports Academy in Manipur’s capital, Imphal.
On coming back from Tokyo with a silver medal, Mirabai did not forget the contribution of the truck drivers towards her growth in her formative years. Mirabai thoughtfully invited almost 150 truck drivers in that area to have lunch with her, touched their feet, and gave them gifts.
Mirabai, an Olympic silver medallist from Tokyo, is also the winner of the World Championship (2017) and three Commonwealth Championships.
Mirabai, who made her Commonwealth Games debut in 2014 in 48kg category in Glasgow, won the gold four years later in 49kg category in 2018 at Gold Coast. She came to Birmingham as an odds-on favourite for gold.
Mirabai had dominated the day like none will in any category. The gold and that shy smile were impossible to match.
The exceptional @mirabai_chanu makes India proud once again! Every Indian is delighted that she’s won a Gold and set a new Commonwealth record at the Birmingham Games. Her success inspires several Indians, especially budding athletes. pic.twitter.com/e1vtmKnD65
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 30, 2022