Lifters keen to make a mark

After a gap of eight years, India will be represented by Chanu, Ravi Kumar

Lifters keen to make a mark

They are returning to the Olympic Games after eight years and more than the medals, the Indian weightlifters will feel the pressure of staying clear of the dope taint that has haunted the country in this discipline for about a decade.

K Ravi Kumar and N Soniya Chanu are the two Indian weightlifters who will be competing in London. They aren't in the elite bracket yet but the nation will be more than grateful if they turn in a couple of personal best performances and stay clear of the doping menace.

A beginning should have been made when Karnam Malleshwari (69kg) raised the profile of Indian weightlifting after bagging bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics but the downfall started with innumerable doping scandals hitting the sport.

While Malleshwari failed to repeat her feat in the next Olympic Games at Athens in 2004, Kunjarani Devi and Sanamacha Chanu also could not bag any medal. On top of that, Chanu and Pratima Kumari tested positive for banned performance-enhancing drugs, becoming the first Indian sportspersons to fail drug tests at the Olympics.

Four years later, L Monika Devi was stopped from boarding the flight to Beijing at the last-minute after allegations of doping surfaced. India earned two quota places for the London Olympics — one each in men’s and women’s sections — during the Senior Asian Championships in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, and the federation selected Ravi (69kg) and Soniya (48kg) for the two spots. Little is expected of the two lifters and Soniya does not mind it one bit as she is keen on springing a surprise at the mega-event.

Asserting that if she maintains her present form and manages to reach the 178kg mark, India may end up with an unexpected medal in weightlifting, Soniya, who is joint 10th in the latest world rankings, said, “I lifted 75kg in snatch to win the bronze and 100kg in clean and jerk. I finished fourth overall with a total of 175kg at the Asian Championship. I also did well in the World Championships with a total lift of 171kg and finished sixth overall. If I can reach around 178kg at the Olympics, I can certainly win a medal. And right now I’m doing better than that in training.”

The 32-year-old Manipuri girl, a 2010 CWG silver medallist, may just pull up a surprise if lady luck decides to smile on her but that would depend on the participants from other countries, especially from powerhouse China. A country can field only four lifters in seven weight categories and as such India would hope that in 48kg, in which Soniya will contest, there is no Chinese entry.

“In 48kg category, there will be just one group. A lot will depend on whether China opt to field their lifters in this category. Besides China, Turkey and Thailand are also expected to pose some threat,” Dronacharya awardee Hansa Sharma, who is Soniya’s coach, said.

Meanwhile, this is the first Olympic quota place India has earned in men’s weightlifting after 12 years since the 2000 Olympics when Thandava Murthy Muthu competed in the 56kg category and finished 16th with a total lift of 245kg.

The CWG gold medallist Ravi, who had lifted a total of 311kg (141+170) to finish 19th at the World Championships and bagged sixth spot at the Asian championships with a similar show, is confident of improving his performance. The 24-year-old lifter from Orissa, who is ranked joint-15th in the world, said he is lifting about 330kg in training and is aiming to lift at least 335kg to 337kg in London.

“I’m lifting 330kg in training and aiming to lift 335-337kg in London. If I can repeat my training performance at the Games, I can finish with a medal,” he said, even though the scenario looks a bit far-fetched.

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