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Mr Minister: When can Mirabai Chanu train?

By LAXMI NEGI
May 12, 2020 09:59 IST
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'We already have had a two month break.'
'If we start proper training with weights now, it will take another four months to get ready for a tournament.'
'We will be able to participate, but won't be able to give our best.'

Mirabai Chanu

IMAGE: Mirabai Chanu starts her day with an hour of yoga. Photograph: Mirabai Chanu/Twitter

Former World champion Saikhom Mirabai Chanu was a sure shot for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics had it been held as scheduled in July.

Before the Olympics weightlifting qualifying schedule went haywire after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mirabai was ranked No 3 in the women's 49kg world rankings.

In lockdown at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala for the last two months, the 25 year old has requested Sports Minster Kiren Rijiju to allow resumption of training at the earliest.

"I cannot wait to get back to my training and do my country proud at the world level," Mirabai tells Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com.

 

What is your day like?

I have the habit of getting up early and have maintained it.

I start my day with an hour of yoga.

We have a small ground outside our rooms which we use for jogging and light workouts like squats.

The training then moves indoors and we do theraband exercises for muscle conditioning and strengthening.

After breakfast we virtually get in touch with family and friends.

After lunch I rest and repeat the same workouts in the evening.

When was the last time you were home in Manipur?

Who doesn't like to be with family?

But weightlifting is such a sport that even if you are out of practice for a week, it takes a toll on your physical conditioning.

The last time I went home was in November 2018. I have been staying at NIS Patiala since 2012. It is like home.

Every year I visit Manipur for just 4 or 5 days and immediately get back to training.

When I am at home there are distractions like family gatherings or meeting with friends.

In 2017, I missed my elder sister's wedding to train in the United States and then returned home with a World Championship medal.

After 22 years, an Indian won a medal at the Weightlifting Worlds.

I was so happy that I could make my country proud. It was reward for all my sacrifices.

The sacrifice of staying away from home I pour it all into my training.

Mirabai Chanu

IMAGE: Mirabai interacts with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on video. Photograph: Kiren Rijiju Office/Twitter

You requested Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to permit starting your training. What did he say?

It has been almost two months that I have been training without weights.

At this rate my performance will go down.

Even if we miss training for one week, we have to put in two weeks of training to regain our fitness level.

We have requested him that it is safe here in NIS. No one is allowed to go out whereas no one is coming in.

At the end of April too we had requested him to start our training, but the lockdown was extended.

We did not get any concrete answers from him, but we can just hope at that least once a day training is allowed.

I cannot wait to get back to my usual training and do my country proud at the world level.

When you train alone, are you scared of injury?

In any sport, physios and masseurs are very important.

When we train alone, sometimes we push ourselves without realising whether it is necessary.

During my junior days, I used to be scared, but now here, in NIS Patiala, we have physios so there is no need to worry.

Mirabai Chanu

IMAGE: Currently, nine weightlifters, including Mirabai Chanu, Youth Olympics gold medallist Jeremy Lalrinnunga and two-time Commonwealth Games champion Sathish Sivalingam are at the NIS, Patiala. Photographs: Mirabai Chanu/Twitter

Before the Olympic qualifying schedule went haywire, you were a sure-shot for the Tokyo Olympics. Will have to start all over again?

Yeah. I was all set for the Tokyo Olympics; I was peaking at the right time, but then the news of the postponement (of the Games) came.

This postponement gives time for an injured athlete to practice well and be fully fit for the Tokyo Olympics.

I took the news of the postponement in my stride and told myself that I have more time to train and prepare well for the Olympics.

What is the plan now? How would you like to go about the qualification process now?

We do not have a calendar as of now, but by December, I hope the calendar is out and we can prepare for the Asian and World Championships.

It will be good to participate in these tournaments to gauge our preparation for the Olympics.

How long does it take for a weightlifter to get back to competition fitness after a break?

It is very difficult for us. We already have had a two month break. If we start proper training with weights now, it will take another four months to get ready for a tournament.

We will be able to participate, but won't be able to give our best.

Muscle mass loss is a big problem in weightlifting if we are not in regular training.

Mirabai Chanu

Many things will change post this pandemic. Do you think about how it was before and what you will miss most?

I miss going out on Sundays.

Every day here is the same. We train from Monday to Saturday evening.

Then we sleep late on Saturdays, we put on some music and dance or watch movies.

And Sundays used to be outings.

Now all of us are locked indoors.

Are you thinking about the changes ahead?

There are days we clean our equipment almost twice every day. Earlier we used to clean it once a week.

When we use an exercise cycle or bars, we try to figure out who must have used it and clean it.

We never had these thoughts before the pandemic.

Earlier, two or three of us used to train together. Now there will be focus on individual training.

Also when we go for tournaments, we have close contacts with our coaches and physios. This will also change, I think.

Mirabai Chanu

What has the lockdown taught you?

Luckily, I was never glued to the phone. I access Facebook and WhatsApp just once a day. Someone has to call me to check my social media accounts if it is necessary.

Earlier, our lives revolved around our sport, but these days when we retire to our rooms, we think of life beyond sports.

I was always interested in cooking so I call my mother and learn to prepare Manipuri cuisine.

When I look at my room, I have this feeling of decorating.

I cannot draw so I decided to make wall hangings. After two months, my room looks nice.

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