Chanu's midas touch in dope-free 2017 for Indian weightlifting
New Delhi: Subjected to 45 dope tests in the last four years, Mirabai Chanu was the historic success story of Indian weightlifting in a blemish- free 2017 in which the sport managed to stay clear of the dope scandals that have destroyed its credibility in the past.
The 23-year-old diminutive lifter from Manipur ensured that weightlifting did not go completely under the radar this year by claiming the country's first World Championship gold medal in two decades.
On November 30, Chanu won the women's 48kg category gold at the World Championship in Anaheim, USA, becoming the first Indian in 22 years after Olympic bronze-medallist Karman Malleswari to attain the feat. Malleswari had clinched it twice in 1994 and 1995. For once, a sport more infamous for doping scandals earned its moment in the spotlight courtesy a shy youngster, who was subjected to two dope tests in the space of two days after returning from the world championship.
Nonetheless, there was hardly a trace of hurt in Chanu because, at a personal level, the medal exorcised the ghosts of her forgettable outing at the Rio Olympics last year.
Her national record bettering lift of 194kg didn't just give her fresh inspiration to aim higher but also lifted the profile of her sport.
The reigning Commonwealth champion endured a difficult journey en route her gold medal feat. It was just about a year back that she had contemplated quitting the sport after drawing flak for not winning a medal at the Rio Olympics.
It took her quite a while to drag herself out of the disappointment and start from the scratch again. Her determination finally got her the desired results across the Atlantic.
Besides putting in hours of rigorous training post the Rio Games failure, Chanu had also missed her sister's wedding as it clashed with the championship.
So, it was hardly a surprise that emotions got the better of her when she finally stepped on the podium with tears rolling down freely.
Perhaps, it was also a reflection of the stress of scrutiny that came with four dope tests in 20 days, adding to the 45 tests she had been subjected to by WADA as well as NADA.
"I have been tested so many times in the past two years but nothing has come out. Whenever they ask me to give a sample, I do it without hesitation because I have nothing to hide. I am only bothered about my training and looking forward to doing well at next year's Commonwealth and Asian Games," Chanu said.
But why were so many tests done on one individual? The answer to that probably lies in India's third position in the global doping violation report published by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for the third year in a row.
In this period, 117 athletes were punished for positive for banned substances. Out of 117 Indian dope offenders, weightlifting had the highest number of doping cases with 56 of them in the list.
However, no matter what she was subjected to, nothing deterred her spirit.
Though 2017 was all about Chanu in the weightlifting arena, there were a few other achievements like as many as 16 Indian lifters, including the Manipuri, booking berths at the 2018 CWG, to be held in Gold Coast, Australia, after IWF published the Commonwealth rankings.