India’s weightlifting squad for the World Weightlifting Championships, Pattaya, Thailand, comprises mostly youngsters. Their goal would be to punch above their weight in a bid to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
A 10-member Indian team – four women and six men lifters – is headed for the World Weightlifting Championships to be held in Pattaya, Thailand between 18 to 27 September. This is a gold-level qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We look at seven players from the contingent, who potentially, form India’s core Olympic group.
India's best medal hope, 25-year-old Manipur-born Mirabai Chanu bagged a gold medal in the 48kg category, at the 2017 edition held in Anaheim, USA. After coming back from her back injury, she has been in fine form this year. She bagged the 49kg gold at the EGAT’s Cup in Thailand and the Commonwealth championships in Apia, Samoa. She narrowly missed out on the bronze medal at the Asian Championships, despite lifting her personal best of 199kg.
Only 16 years old, Jeremy Lalrinnunga of Mizoram bagged silver at the 2017 World Youth Championships in Thailand. He also ‘snatched’ the 2018 Youth Olympics 62kg gold medal in Argentina. In 2019, Jeremy broke many records when he lifted 297kg at the Asian Championships in China, narrowly missing out on a medal. He is targeting a staggering total lift of 310kg at this World Championship.
Twenty-year-old Odisha-born Jhilli Dalabehera lifted 162kg to bag a silver medal at the Asian Championships in China this year. In 2018, she won bronze at the IWF Junior World Championships in Uzbekistan, in the 48kg division. She will hope to carry her good form into Pattaya.
18-year-old Achinta Sheuli’s story is the stuff of fairy tales. He lost his father — the family’s daily bread-winner when he was very young. To make ends meet, he started working as a daily-wage zari embroidery worker. From there, his transformation into a champion weightlifter has been amazing. This year, Sheuli won both the elite and junior golds in the 73kg division at the Commonwealth Championships. He holds a lot of promise for the Indian medal hopes in Pattaya.
A tribal girl from Mayurbhanj, Odisha, Sneha Soren is just 18 years old. In 2017, she won a gold medal in the 48kg category at the Commonwealth Youth Championships in Australia. Last year, Sneha won a bronze medal in the 48kg category at the Asian Youth Championships held in Uzbekistan. She is now India’s best hope in the 55kg division.
22-year-old Ajay Singh created a new Commonwealth record in the course of winning the gold at this year’s Commonwealth championships. He lifted a humongous 338kg — more than double his body weight. Ajay has been consistent with his form, having regularly won medals at the Asian and Commonwealth senior and junior levels.
She would routinely lift heavy grain sacks, running errands for neighbours in her Bengal village. Rakhi Halder’s mother made her join the local weightlifting club. This year, she won the gold at the Commonwealth Championships in Australia. This was her best performance since 2012 when she won the title in the Junior Commonwealth Championship. India will hope for her to continue the resurgence in form.