So what can India expect from its lifters at the IWF World Championships which get underway on September 18 in the Thai city of Pattaya?
Historically, Indians have struggled to make a mark for themselves at the event with a few exceptions, such as Kunjarani Devi, Karnam Malleswari and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu. However, their recent performances on the international stage do call for a sense of optimism ahead of the World meet.
The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) has named a 10-member strong team for the Worlds and it includes the likes of Youth Olympics champion Jeremy Lalrinnunga, Jhilli Dalabehera, Mirabai and Vikas Thakur, while Sathish Sivalingam misses out as he’s still recuperating from the thigh injury he suffered at the 2018 Asian Games.
While the Indian contingent boasts of a handful of experienced lifters, it won’t be a surprise if the youngsters making their debut step up to the challenge at the Pattaya event.
Lalrinnunga, the gold medalist from Buenos Aires 2018, started his season with a silver medal finish in the 67kg category at the EGAT's Cup International Weightlifting Championships at the start of the year with a lift of 288kg (131+157).
He went on to add to that performance by pulling off a 297kg (134+163) lift at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in April.
Though he finished ninth at the Asian meet, the competition was an eye-opener for the teenager with respect to what he will have to do to make a career at the senior stage.
While Lalrinnunga was in for a reality check at the Asian Championships, the competition was a platform for another youngster, Jhilli Dalabehera, to prove her mettle on the continental stage.
The Odisha-born lifter managed to surprise many with a lift of 162kg (71+91) for her silver medal in Ningbo, China. Then at the Commonwealth Championships, she managed 164kg (70+94) for the gold.
However, things will be considerably different at the Worlds with the best in the business aiming for the podium. If the 2017 results are something to go by, anything below 171kg would barely stand a chance in Pattaya.
Back in the mix
While the youngsters will hope to leave a lasting mark at the Worlds, Mirabai too will be hoping to enjoy a fine outing in Thailand. The 25-year-old has made a cautious return to the competition post a lower-back injury that kept her out for the most part of 2018. The Indian returned at the EGAT's Cup at the start of the year to win a gold in the 49kg category.
In her first event in the new category, Mirabai lifted a total of 192 kgs (82+110) to win the title, a good nine kilograms more than the silver medallist Hiromi Miyake of Japan. She followed it up with a 199kg (86+113) lift at the Asian Championships in April but ended up missing the podium due to her inferior body weight.
Though Mirabai managed to clinch the gold at the Commonwealth Championships in July, her lift of 191kg (84+107) was nothing close to what she would have hoped for building up to the Worlds.
The 49kg category at the Worlds requires lifts over 200kg to win medals with China’s Jiang Huihua managing 206kg for a bronze. If Mirabai is to have even an outside chance of making it among the medals, she’ll not only need to be at her utmost best but also pull off an astounding effort in Thailand.
Road to Tokyo
Though there aren’t any quota places up for grabs at the World Championships, the Pattaya event is a Gold Level competition and the performance could have a significant bearing on athletes making it to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as per the new qualification norms.
The qualification process for Tokyo 2020 is based on the performances of the weightlifters in six events over a period of 18 months out of which the four best results will be considered.