Saikhom Mirabai Chanu is an Indian athlete and represents India for weightlifting in world champion’s level. She was born on 8th August, 1994 to a Meitei family who settled in the Imphal valley region in Nongpok Kakching which is 44 km from Imphal, Manipur. Her strength was identified at the age of 12 when she would lift the firewood on her head to reduce her mother’s burden. But the thought to make this sport her career rose only when she saw the legendary Kujarani Devi represent India at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She managed to convince her parents to fulfil her dreams and started her practise in 2007.
Mirabai comes from a poor family where they could not afford her diet and training. She would skip her meals to maintain her weight during practise sessions. Her father worked as a construction worker in Manipur Public Works Department and her mother ran a small tea shop in the village main road to support their family. With less income in her family she managed to stay determined to fulfil her dreams.
In the initial days she would walk 20 km for practise and did not have proper weights too but the desire to fulfil her dreams she overcame all the hurdles. At the age of 11 she was the under-15 champion and at the age of 17 she was the junior champion.
Mirabai first won a silver medal in the 48kg weight category in the Glasgow edition of the Commonwealth games. In 2016 she was selected to play in 2016 Rio Olympics in the 48kg category but luck was not on her behalf. She failed multiple attempts in the clean and jerk section and the phrase “Did not finish” on the scoreboard led to many consequences in her life. People criticised her, made fun of her, doubted her ability and facing all these she slipped into depression. She wanted a counsellor’s help to recover from that incident as she had almost decided to quit weightlifting.
By 2017 she recovered and returned to form with high spirits and that was seen in her game that year. In the 2018 Commonwealth games she participated in the 48kg category and won a Gold medal for India. With that win she managed to change everybody’s thinking towards her. She became unstoppable after that. In the 2019 Asian Weightlifting Championship won a bronze medal in the 49 kg category. In the 2020 Senior National Weightlifting Championship she won the gold medal in the 49 kg category. At the 2020 Asian Weightlifting Championship in Tashkent she won a bronze medal and her recent achievement being won the silver medal in 2020 Summer Olympics in the 49 kg category. She is the only Indian woman weightlifter to be qualified for Summer Olympics.
As she has set new records for Indians at an international level Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has given Rs. 1 crore as an award and the Indian Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has given an award of Rs. 2 crore to Mirabai Chanu.
The other achievements of Mirabai Chanu are Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest sporting honour of India in 2018 and the Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award of India in 2018.
After the failure in the Rio Olympics, Mirabai and her coach changed their way of practise and training to have a clear win in the next game. It was well proved in the following games. The hunger to win a medal in the Olympics was to an extent where Mirabai stayed away from home for almost 5 years and also had to maintain a strict diet to remain fit.
While talking to the Indian media from Tokyo after the competition she explained her joy and the moment where she could fulfil her dream to win the medal in the Olympics. She spoke about her hunger to win the medal and also her hunger to eat home food cooked by her mother. She craved for fish and rice prepared by her mother and also pizza. She received a warm welcome at the Delhi airport which was unexpected for her and had to reach her car with strict security.
Mirabai Chanu, a girl from a small town of Manipur today has become an inspiration to many Indian girls and a sport like weightlifting is becoming more popular and inspiring many others to take up the sport.