Weightlifters led by the amazing Saikhom Mirabai Chanu opened India’s medal account at the 2022 Commonwealth Games here with a gold, silver, and bronze haul, winning medals in all three events held at the weightlifting arena so far to lift the country to the seventh place in the medals tally with hopes of at least one more medal for the day with Indians figuring in two more finals on Saturday.
Maharashtra’s Sanket Sargar set the ball rolling for India by winning the country’s first medal of Birmingham 2022 — a silver medal in Men’s 55kg weightlifting and Karnataka’s Gururaja Poojary claimed bronze in Men’s 61kg in the morning session.
Golden girl Mirabai Chanu, the Tokyo Olympic Games silver medallist, then stepped up to the rostrum to win the country’s first gold medal of this edition as she came up with a brilliant performance to top the field by a distance in the Women’s 49kg division with a Games Record to boot as India made a strong start in Birmingham. A former World Champion in 49kg, Mirabai easily retained the gold medal she won in Gold Coast in 2018.
Mirabai totally dominated the field and finished streets ahead of the entire competition as she expectedly clinched the gold medal. The 27-year-old from Manipur usually lifts 20-30 kgs more than the field, managing a total of 201kg.
By far the best weightlifter in this class, Mirabai lifted 88 kg in snatch and then added 113 kg in the clean and jerk to leave the opposition way behind. While Mirabai lifted 201 kg for the gold medal, Marie Hanitra Roilya Ranaivosoa of Mauritius took silver with a total of 172 kg, and Canada’s Hannah Kaminiski took bronze with a total of 171 kg.
Four years ago, Mirabai had won the gold medal in Gold Coast while Ranaivosoa, who is a personal trainer in her day job, had finished second. The order remained the same in Birmingham too.
There could easily have been two gold medals for India on Saturday but Sanket Sargar was thwarted by an injury during the clean and jerk section of the Men’s 55kg competition and lost out on the yellow metal by just one kg.
As he lifted 139 kg in his second attempt in the clean and jerk section of the men’s 55kg, Sargar clearly heard something snap in his arm. He could not complete the lift as pain shot through his arm to the entire body.
The diminutive lifter trudged back into the warmup area and had a chat with his coach before emerging for his third and final attempt at 139 kg. But the pain was too much and there was not enough time nor any attempt, to avoid being declared medically unfit to compete by the doctor, and Sanket bravely attempted to lift 139 and failed again.
The 22-year-old Sargar from the Sangli district of Maharashtra lifted an aggregate of 248 kg but was pipped to the post by Malaysia’s Mohamad Aniq bin Kasdan, who came from behind to lift 142 kg in clean and jerk in his third and final attempt, taking his total to 249. The Malaysian lifted 107 in snatch before picking 142 in clean and jerk for a Games Record total. Sargar could manage only 135 in clean and jerk. Sri Lanka’s Dilanka Isuru Kumara Yodage claimed the bronze medal with a total of 225.
Gururaja claimed India’s second medal of the day when he came up with his best attempts in a new weight class to bag a bronze medal.
The 27-year-old Junior Warrant Officer (JWO) in India Air Force got married in May 2021 but decided to leave his wife with his parents in Karnataka so that he can concentrate on his career.
All those sacrifices paid dividends as Gururaja on Saturday captured a bronze medal in the men’s 61kg weight division at the Commonwealth Games 2022, the first medal in this weight class according to him.
Gururaja came up with the best effort in his last attempt in the men’s 61kg division, improving on his personal best by lifting 151 in his third attempt in clean and jerk. He had the best effort of 118 in the snatch, giving him an aggregate of 269kg. He finished behind Malaysia’s Muhamad Aznil Bin Bidin, who lifted 127 in snatch and 158 in clean and jerk for a total of 285, which is a new Games Record.
Morea Baru of Papua New Guinea took silver with a total of 272 (121 in snatch and 152 in clean and jerk, finishing well clear of Gururaja, who finished just one kg ahead of Youri Simard of Canada, who had an aggregate of 268.
As they say, ‘well begun is half done’, the good start provided by Mirabai, Sanket Sargar, and Gururaja will definitely lift the hopes of the rest of the lifters and maintain hopes of India dominating the weightlifting competitions at the Commonwealth Games once again.