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After Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Borgohain's Olympic Success, Expectations High from Weightlifting, Boxing in 2022

By: Nandakumar Marar


Last Updated: January 08, 2022, 14:16 IST


Mirabai Chanu (L) and Lovlina Borgohain won medals at the Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters Photo)

Mirabai Chanu (L) and Lovlina Borgohain won medals at the Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters Photo)

Mirabai Chanu and Lovlina Borgohain's medals at the Tokyo Olympics can pave way for success in weightlifting and boxing, respectively.

India’s first medallist at the Olympic Games 2020, weightlifter Mirabai Chanu in women’s 49kgs, deservedly got early appreciation and awards on return from Tokyo with a first-ever second place. The spotlight also turned on humble surroundings, which armed the pocket-sized dynamo with a big heart to overcome obstacles in the path. Having got over failed attempts in front of the audience at Rio 2016, recovered from back injury, the Manipur lifter knows what it takes to remain in reckoning this year.

Jeremy Lalrinnuga, 20, made the early moves in December 2021 by confirming a place in men’s 67 kg category for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year. He missed the cut for Tokyo following a knee injury, bagged the first place at the Commonwealth Championships, totalling 305 kgs close to personal best 306 kgs. Gold medallists get automatic entry into the CWG, so the Mizoram teenager, India’s first Youth Olympics champ, can develop from here.

Mirabai’s Tokyo aggregate lift (203 kgs) was below a personal best of 205 kgs (Asian Weightlifting Championships 2021 in Tashkent), yet ahead of the lifters group to earn a coveted second place at Olympics 2020, behind China’s Hou Zhihui (Olympic record 210kgs total). The Indian aggregated three kilos below her personal best, but the performance on competition day mattered. Jeremy can take inspiration from the pride of Indian weightlifting, for whom motivation came from within. The Rio 2016 faux pas is forgotten forever.

The proposed change in weight category for Lalrinnuga, from men’s 67kgs at the Asian Games to 71 or 73 kgs subsequently for 2024 Paris Olympics, is a matter coming up for the lifters. The International Weightlifting Federation may reduce weight categories in men and women, prodded into action to make the power sport more attractive. Medal events may be reduced from 14 at Tokyo to 10 in Paris, in consultation with the Athletes Commission. The latter voiced their objection to being left out when critical decisions are proposed.


For the powerfully-built Mizo, 67kgs and 62kgs is familiar territory (Youth Olympics 2016 gold) and the call to move up into a heavier category needs to be taken in step with IWF decisions. For Mirabai, employed with Manipur Police as Additional Superintendent of Police as incentive for the Tokyo medal, preparing for AG 2022 is the next destination. The build-up phase can be CWG 2022, where she is the defending champion.

Mirabai had stepped on the podium at Tokyo as well, to receive the silver medal. The proud moment for herself and India is motivation enough in a busy year for sport. The lifter is supported by Olympic Gold Quest and as part of the TOPS scheme to assist in preparations, the second place at Tokyo was a big moment in the career of an ambitious woman. Lalrennuga is a TOPS beneficiary.

Boxing is a success story at the Asian level, specifically in the men’s category. Vikas Krishan is eying a fourth consecutive medal at Hangzhou 2022, after gold in Guangzhou 2010 (lightweight), bronzes in 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta (both in middleweight category). Last year at the Asian Championships in Dubai, he bagged the bronze in welterweight. The Haryana boxer was among nine fighters at Tokyo 2020 and lost in the welterweight round of 32 to Japan’s Sewon Okazawa.

The expectations are on flyweight Amit Pangal, in keeping with his reputation as one of the stars in world boxing. First place at the Asian Games 2018 in Jakarta, second place at the World Championship 2019 in Belgrade and world number one boxer in flyweight category going into Tokyo Olympics 2020. The Indian’s second round loss to Columbian Yuberjen Martinez, a silver medallist from Rio 2016, was a shock for his fans. Martinez had sparred with Panghal before, so was prepared and managed to tire out the top seed.

The Haryana talent had got the better of reputed rivals in the past, specifically Olympic light fly winner Hasanboy Dushmatov (Uzbekistan) in the gold medal bout at AG 2018. No Indian has won the flyweight title before at the Asian Games, Panghal has taken down a barrier for younger boxers to follow. The effect of an Asian Games gold will be seen in the years to come, the same sweeping effect the late Dingko Singh’s bantamweight gold (Asian Games 1988 Bangkok) had on boxing in the north-eastern India.

MC Mary Kom was one of the Manipuri kids drawn to boxing after the Dingko impact, and has now gone on to inspire girls in different states to step into the ring. The multiple world champion continues to force rivals to remain on their toes at 38 years, as Colombian flyweight, Ingrit Valencia, realised at Tokyo 2020. Chasing a second medal (London 2021 bronze), Mary Kom had missed out on qualifying for Rio 2016 but booked a berth for Tokyo 2020 on merit, excelling in the Asian Boxing Championships 2021.

The Valencia vs Mary Kom bout at the Olympics could have swung either way, eventually ending 3-2 in the Colombian’s favour. Mary Kom felt devastated at the split verdict and openly expressed her frustration. The Manipuri fighter is not a person to rest on her laurels, so looking ahead to the 2022 season cannot be ruled out. Four Indian women boxers qualified for Tokyo 2020 (flyweight Mary Kom, middleweight Simranjit Kaur, lightweight Pooja Rani and welterweight Lovelina Borgohain), only the last named continued the medal tradition with hard-fought wins till the semifinal.

With the Paris Olympics 2024 on her mind, this year will be a busy one for the young Assam boxer and can be banked upon to compete at the CWG 2022 and AG 2022 to accumulate experience and add new elements to her work inside the ring. Incentives have been given, support for future plans assured for the lean fighter.

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first published:January 08, 2022, 14:14 IST
last updated:January 08, 2022, 14:16 IST