Lifting Logs for Firewood to Winning an Olympic Medal for India: Mirabai Chanu’s Story

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Mirabai Chanu wins first medal for India: Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu won a silver medal in the women’s 49kg category to give India its first medal at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics. She lifted 84kg and 87kg in clean and jerk successfully but failed to lift 89kg in snatch and was placed in the second spot. Meanwhile, China’s Zhihu Hou lifted 94kg to create an Olympic record. She took the gold.

This was Chanu’s second appearance at Olympics. In the Rio edition in 2016, she had failed in her first snatch attempt of 82kg. On her second attempt, she was able to lift 82kg before failing in the third attempt at 84kg. She also flunked all three attempts in the Clean and Jerk. Mirabai Chanu overcame immense hardships to secure an Olympic podium finish. There was a time the Manipuri weightlifter had to collect logs for firewood outside of her village near Imphal.

It is but natural, that the entire nation is celebrating the athlete’s Olympic performance today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too took to his Twitter account and congratulated the athlete after the win. “Could not have asked for a happier start to @Tokyo2020! India is elated by @mirabai_chanu’s stupendous performance. Congratulations to her for winning the Silver medal in weightlifting. Her success motivates every Indian. #Cheer4India #Tokyo2020,” he noted.

Here is Mirabai Chanu’s Story:

1. Mirabai Chanu was born in Nongpok Kakching, the youngest of six siblings in a financially challenged family.

2. Chanu would go to collect wood with her brother Saikhom Sanatomba Meitei, who is four years older than her. Her brother recalled that despite being younger than him, Chanu displayed immense power at a very young age. “One day I could not lift the bundle of firewood but Mira easily lifted it and took it our home, about two kilometres away. She was about 12-year-old then,” recalled her brother in 2018.

3. Chanu’s father works in the Pubic Works Department in Imphal as a lower level employee. Her mother runs a small shop at their village.

4. A 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Mirabai Chanu was left devastated when she failed to secure a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The athlete then sought help from a psychologist who helped her get back on her feet.

5. Chanu was presented with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2018.

Feature Image Credit: Official Twitter account of Team India

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