After a year of delay because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tokyo Olympics 2020 finally began in 2021 and Japan went to host the biggest celebration of different sports and athletes from 205 countries. One of the 11,090 athletes was Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, who stood on the podium with the silver medal on Day 1 of the games.
When it comes to athletes, from deciding to make a sport their career to standing on the podium, embracing the losses and the wins, the story is full of bold steps and recoveries. Let us weave you the tale of Saikhom Mirabai Chanu's Journey to Olympic Silver.
Born on August 8th 1994 at Nongpok Kakching, Manipur, India, Mirabai is the 6th child of the PWD employee. Little did anyone in her village or herself know that she would go ahead to lift the weight of the hope of an entire nation.
Two decades back, in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, India experienced the same thrill as Padma Shri Karnam Malleswari went on the victory podium. She was the first Indian woman who won Bronze Medal in weightlifting. And today, it isn’t surprising that Mirabai’s journey was inspired to some extent by this great player.
The silver medal holder for weightlifting in the 49 kg category, Mirabai Chanu’s journey to the podium was similar to various other athletes across the world challenging financial and societal challenges to rise beyond. Like every sportsperson, Mirabai dreamed of becoming an Olympian and represent her country but not intentionally, at first.
When Mirabai Chanu is savouring an overwhelming and rightful adoration from media across the country after her win, it is important to embrace her story from the very start. The 26 years old was once lifting firewood on her head to her family’s leased half-acre paddy field.
The financial condition of Mirabai’s family was not at par given there were six siblings to feed on her father’s monthly wage of Rs. 3000-4000. After realising that she was the power and getting selected at the academy, her coach recommended having a protein-rich diet. Despite their financial status, her family continued to support her vision as she decided to win for India.
Mirabai started her training and not only represented India but also won Bronze Medal at the 2012 Asian Junior Championship, gold at the 2013 Junior National Weightlifting, and the silver medal at the 2014 commonwealth Games.
Mirabai’s journey till now was exceptional but a game-changer Rio Olympics were awaiting her with some bad news and the insight she needed to push in the right direction. At Rio Olympics 2016, Channu could not succeed in the clear and jerk section with her three attempts. Like any sportsperson, the Olympics was her goal as well and depression after the failure was not unexpected.
Even though she succumb to the stress at the Olympics, like a fierce combatant, she continued her journey and started preparing for something that the world would remember forever. But before the next Olympics, she had other pages to add to the story.
After Rio, Chanu set the target higher and aimed at the 2017 World Championship in Anaheim. It was the fruition of her hard work and passion that led Chanu to become the first weightlifter after 22 years to win gold for India.
Mirabai's journey took a golden road when she became the first Indian athlete to bag gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The Manipuri weightlifter not only received a Gold medal in the 48 Kg weight class but she received the same after breaking the games record in both the Snatch and Clean & Jerk categories.
In the past, Chanu won a silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, had marked 86 kg in snatch and 119 kg in clean and jerk to complete her record.
The same year as she accomplished incredible achievements in her game, she was facilitated by the National Sports Federation and the Indian Government. She received the Indian sports world’s highest honour, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2018. The golden girl, Chanu received Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India.
When the world was impacted by the coronavirus led pandemic, Tokyo Olympics were rescheduled for the next year. And despite these hurdles, the moment came which will be imprinted on the minds of Indians and the world, when Mirabai earned the silver medal for her nation and stood on the podium.
This was followed by some of the most amazing moments for her. She was welcomed back home with overwhelming media attention.
Her interview right after the ceremony unveiled her love for pizza and how she restricted the same to maintain her weight. Dominos came ahead and offered her free pizza for a lifetime.
On the other hand, netizens raised the issue of celebrating her as India’s daughter as she won medals whilst the regular racism North East Indians face.
Some were even shocked as the image of her humble home appeared on social media. Whilst many were emotional on the image of her reunion with her mother after the win.