Mirabai Chanu and Indian weightlifters’ Tokyo 2020 hopes dealt a blow

Already moved once, the Asian Weightlifting Championship has now been put on hold.

The 2020 Olympics hopes of India’s weightlifting contingent led by Mirabai Chanu hit a bump in the road as the Asian Weightlifting Championship, which was to be held in Uzbekistan from April 16-25, has been postponed.

The news comes after the event was already forced to move to Uzbekistan from its original venue of Kazakhstan.

Aside from Indian weightlifter Mirabai Chanu (49kg), India had planned to send three other women and five men, among them Youth Olympics gold medallist Jeremy Lalrinnunga (67kg), to the gold-level Olympic qualifying event.

"Because of the global spread of the coronavirus and travel restrictions implemented by many countries around the world, the Local Organizing Committee decided to postpone the Asian Championships…. to a yet unknown date,” said the International Weightlifting Federation in a statement.

Possible alternatives

A meeting is to be held on March 17-18 in Lausanne, Switzerland, and as per an official of the Indian Weightlifting Federation, one of the possible solutions that will be discussed include extending the Olympic qualification period by a month, from the existing cutoff of April to May.

Elaborating on the other alternatives, the official told Outlook India, “This is the last gold-level Olympics qualifying event for Asian weightlifters. So, one option could be that they may be allowed to take part in other continental championships like African Championships and European Championships.”

The African and European Championships, to be held in Mauritius and Russia respectively in April, have so far managed to stay unaffected by the postponement trend of sporting events worldwide.

Implications for Indian weightlifters

To qualify for the 2020 Olympics, a weightlifter must compete in at least one event in each of the three periods of six months, spread over November 2018 to April 2020, at least six events overall and in at least one gold and silver level event.

Mirabai Chanu is currently ranked fourth in the 49kg category on the IWF Tokyo 2020 Qualification ranking lists
Mirabai Chanu is currently ranked fourth in the 49kg category on the IWF Tokyo 2020 Qualification ranking listsMirabai Chanu is currently ranked fourth in the 49kg category on the IWF Tokyo 2020 Qualification ranking lists

Rio 2016 qualifier Mirabai Chanu has been pegged by Olympic bronze medallist weightlifter Karnam Malleswari to win a 2020 Olympics medal.

Currently ranked fourth in the International Weightlifting Federation’s 49kg Olympic qualifiers ranking list, Mirabai Chanu’s position sees her in good stead to qualify for the 2020 Olympics while Rakhi Halder and Jeremy Lalrinnunga, both currently ranked 20th in their respective weight categories, will have to impress at the qualifiers.

That aside, there is also the fact that postponements of such events during an Olympic year deny these weightlifters of valuable opportunities to see how they stack up against their fellow competitors.

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