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September 17, 2000
Sanamacha's Chanu's big day tomorrow
Destiny beckons Manipur girl Sanamacha Chanu, who is tipped to become the first-ever Indian woman to win an Olympic medal on Monday if she can keep her composure.
Ranked No 2 in the world in the 53 kg division, the 21-year-old is tipped to be among the medals by most experts, but on recent form the gold may elude her.
Three gold medals in this year's Asian championship in the 53 kg class have brought her to the fore this year, but what will surely be playing on Sanamacha's mind is her 'no-lift' performance in the last year's Athens World championships (in the 48 kg division), which were treated as the Olympic qualifiers.
"I'm focused on the event, there's nothing else on my mind so there's no question of nerves," she said, trying to appear cool and unruffled. There is no turmoil on the surface but behind the smile there are a lot of things that could play a crucial role.
If the unhappy memories of the world championships were not enough, the fact that three other girls in the Olympic fray have lifted more than her during the qualifiers is a discomforting thought.
Weightlifting, it is said, is a mind game. Muscle power comes next. How true it could prove in Sanamacha's case. If composed, she could create history.
It took women weightlifters 13 years to break into the Olympic arena after they were accepted in the World championships in 1987.
A big lobby in the International Weightlifting Federation wanted the women's sport to be included in the Games as it could help erase the image of drug-infused hulks making a mockery of the sport.
The argument went: Weightlifting is a sport about poise and grace; women lifters could help elevate the sport to a different level.
Come Monday, the pint-sized Indian girl - standing four feet and 10 inches tall in her socks - could be walking tall.
Sanamacha will also be under pressure to deliver from her vilified coach Pal Singh Sandhu, who has been accused of partisan selection by another illustrious Indian lifter N Kunjarani Devi, rated as one of the best Indian lifters all-time.
Kunjarani's ouster kicked up a big furore back home, given that she had the displayed the heart for big-time competitions. On the other hand, more illustrious women lifters have sometimes cracked under pressure.
From being sure-shot medal winners, the Indian women lifters have came under a cloud over the selection controversies.
Sanamacha's main rivals are China's Yang Xia, Chinese Taipei's Li Feng-Ying and Indonesian Winarni Binti Slamet. The fact that she swept the three gold medals in the Asian championship should be a morale booster for the Indian.
But she knows well it's the performance on a given day that matters. That day arrives on Monday for Sanamacha.
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