Mirabai Chanu sets marker for Paris Olympics medal: 205-207kg

Mirabai Chanu won India's first ever weightlifting silver at the Tokyo Olympics. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

In 86 days from today, Mirabai Chanu will climb the lifting platform at the South Paris Arena with a single goal in mind: to defend, if not better, her silver medal from the Tokyo Olympics.

She's identified a total weight she needs to lift to win that medal, and is working towards that target: a total of 207kgs, which would include a 90kg lift in the snatch [which would be a personal best] and 117kg in the clean and jerk [her personal best is 119kg, so there is scope to increase that total].

A medal at the Paris Games would make Chanu India's most successful weightlifter and only the second Indian woman to win two Olympic medals. It's a record she's well aware of and one that she is keen to make her own.

"I am both excited and nervous about the Paris Olympics," Chanu tells ESPN. "This will be my third Olympics and the thought of what will happen makes me a little nervous. I had won silver on the first day in Tokyo and thinking about what could happen this time...it adds a little pressure too. But I am thrilled that the Olympics are back within three years and that excites me," she says.

There's a lot that's happened since Chanu's silver medal in Tokyo: she won silver at the 2022 World Championships and gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. But there were also numerous injuries that dragged her down along the way, the worst of which was a hip injury at the 2023 Asian Games.

Chanu felt a shooting pain in her right thigh during the warm-up, chose to fight through it, but ended up injuring her hip in her final clean and jerk attempt and missed out on a podium finish. That injury meant her 2023 season was done, where she competed in only two events.

"I did not train for five months after the Asian Games. I was completely away from weightlifting, we just focused on my recovery and upper-body workouts," she says.

She would finally return to full-fledged training in January when she went to the USA to train with her long-term coach Dr. Aaron Horschig. Chanu used to squat weights for fun earlier, but now had to start from the basics once again. It began with free squats, then an empty bar and finally a bar loaded with weights. It brought purpose back to Chanu's life.

"I'm just really happy to lift a barbell again and that I squat again," she admits. Chanu's personal best in the squat is 150kgs and she has worked her way close to that figure, currently repping out sets of 120-130kgs at her training base at the NIS Patiala with coach Vijay Sharma.

In her only competition this year, she finished 12th at the IWF Weightlifting World Cup with a total of 184kgs [81kgs snatch + 113kgs in clean and jerk]. It was very far from her personal best [88kgs snatch + 119kg in clean and jerk], but it got the job done: it assured Chanu a spot at the Paris Olympics.

Chanu and coach Sharma are leaving no stone unturned in their preparation for the Olympics - they're currently applying the finishing touches to Chanu's lifts in Patiala and will soon head to La Ferté-Milon in Northern France, a month before the Games, to acclimatize to the conditions.

The Paris Games will be a tough outing, Chanu notes. The snatch event has traditionally been her weak point and there are now three lifters hovering around the 90kgs mark: Romania's Mihaela Cambei [92kgs at the 2023 European Championships], USA's Jourdan Delacruz [91kgs at the 2019 Pan-American Championships] and Thailand's Surodchana Khambao [87kgs at the 2023 World Championships].

"It will be tough since there are more lifters who are doing well in snatch in the 49kg. I'm looking at a 90kg lift in the snatch and around 115kg+ in the clean and jerk. I think a total of over 200kgs should be good for a medal and I am targeting 205-207kgs."