It took a combined lift of 202 kg for Mirabai Chanu to get the weight off her shoulders. Silver was always there for her taking. Chanu knew she simply had to turn up and do the bare minimum to get on the podium. But there wasn’t a lot of fun in following this plain-vanilla script. So, Vijay Sharma – the gentle giant in the corner of the iron-pumping, Olympic-medal winning Chanu – decided to throw the gauntlet on the eve of the competition.
The only way, he was convinced, to enhance whatever theoretical chance Chanu had of winning a gold medal was by forcing a mistake from the Chinese lifter, Hou Zhihui. So, when the entry weights were revealed on Friday, Chanu declared she’d lift 210kg – five more than her personal best, which is also a national record. At that point, the only priority for Chanu and Sharma was to cut the lifter’s weight by two kilos to meet the entry standard. It is pretty standard for athletes to weigh a couple of kilos more than their competition weight.
“We alter her diet accordingly, for example by removing all carbs. Our idea was to push our limit so we could make the Chinese to work harder for the medal. That way, there was a chance for us to force a mistake,” Sharma says. “Our target of 210kg was very realistic. We had prepared for it and it was just a matter of execution.”.
It is a standard practice for athletes around the world to track their menstrual cycle to ensure their performance does not get affected while also trying to remain healthy and prolong their careers. “But sometimes, when the training load gets heavy, the menstrual cycle gets disturbed. Mira has been competing for a decade so dealing with this scenario is a part of her preparation,” Sharma says.