Mirabai Chanu is the gold favourite at CWG 2022, but she wants to shoulder more

Mirabai Chanu is looking beyond defending her gold from the 2018 Commonwealth Games Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Mirabai Chanu will enter NEC Hall 1 in Birmingham on Saturday as an Olympic medallist, the defending champion and the overwhelming gold medal favourite in women's 49kg weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games.

The 27-year-old Olympic silver medallist already holds the CWG and world record in clean and jerk in her weight category and is the clear leader of the pack. Her personal best is 207kg (88kg+119kg), which is far better than the best effort of Nigeria's Stella Kingsley - 168kg (72kg+96kg), who will be her nearest rival.

For a former world champion who completed her redemption arc at the Tokyo Games with a silver, a second CWG gold won't be high on the list of achievements. However, it isn't the gold medal that is Mirabai's main goal, it is the competition. Against herself, with the barbell: She wants to break the 90kg barrier in snatch and set a new best for herself. For the record books and most importantly, with an eye on the future.

The Tokyo medal has not satisfied her, despite it being a full circle moment after the heartbreak in Rio - where she failed to have any successful lifts in her three attempts. Instead, it has motivated her to work even harder. In fact, there has been much work to do both technically and physically since 2021.

"Some think that [motivation] goes down after a medal but I don't think like that. I want to improve more," Mirabai told ESPN from NIS Patiala ahead of the CWG. "My training after Tokyo has become even harder," she laughs.

"I have had to work harder because I want to win more than the silver from Tokyo. I want to work harder than before. This medal was not an end for me, I want to go even further."

The most important change post the Olympic medal has been fixing her body's conditioning, chief among which was her shoulder's alignment. In March, she went back to US to train with Dr Aaron Horschig, the physical therapist and strength & conditioning coach she had worked with pre-Olympics.

"My shoulders were not level, one side was higher than the other, this is what I had gone to US to work on and this is better now," she said. Given the nature of weightlifting, especially in snatch where she isn't as smooth as in clean and jerk, this could prove to be a pivotal tweak in her goal to breach the 90kg mark.

Mirabai also said she is not as injury prone as she was earlier. "My body has recovered, my physical fitness has improved and I am injury free now. Earlier, in training... my body had the tendency to get injured easily. If I took too much load, my body would catch a niggle quickly. But now that does not happen," she said. Another big tweak for the weightlifter who has had to miss major events in the past due to injury.

With the 2022 Asian Games shifted by a year, her main focus is now the World Championship in December. But first, she is looking to defend her Commonwealth title with a new record, if she can. Till then, she has given up her favourite pizza again, a luxury she momentarily allowed herself after the Tokyo silver. Mirabai Chanu may well be the favourite, but she is hungrier for more.