Weightlifters look to erase dope shame in Commonwealth Games
New Delhi: Saved from missing the Commonwealth Games by a last-minute loan from the Organising Committee, Indian weightlifters would look to erase the dope shame of the previous two editions with a rich haul of medals in the October 3-14 mega-event here.
Weightlifting contributes a big chunk of medals to India`s tally in the Commonwealth Games and this time also, the lifters are expected to repeat the show with many of them in peak form and in the top bracket among Commonwealth lifters in the past one year.
From 1990 till 2002, nearly half of India`s medals have come from weightlifting as each category had three gold medals up for grabs then.
The rules changed since 2006 in Melbourne where Indian lifters contributed nine medals -- three gold, five silver and a bronze -- to the country`s total of 49 (22 gold, 17 silver and 10 bronze).
In 1990, weightlifters contributed a whopping 24 medals, including 12 gold out of India`s total tally of 32. Only one gold came outside weightlifting in that Games.
The biggest haul of medals came in 2002 Manchester Games where Indian weightlifters won 27 -- 11 gold, nine silver and seven bronze out of the country`s overall tally of 69, including 22 gold.
Commonwealth Games is one multi-sport event in which Indian weightlifters have always done well in the absence of top countries such as China, Central Asian countries, South Korea, Turkey and Russia.
India is considered one of the weightlifting powerhouses in the Commonwealth, having won 93 medals, including 33 gold since 1966 when they took part for the first time. Only Australia with 145 medals and England with 105 are ahead of India in the number of medals won in the Commonwealth Games` history.
The Indian weightlifters` build-up to the Delhi Games was, however, not without drama as the Federation had to borrow Rs 1.75 crore from the CWG OC to pay the last two installments of a hefty dope fine before the August 31 deadline.
That saved Indian weightlifters the ignominy of being barred from participating in Games being held at home.
International Weightlifting Federation had imposed a hefty fine of USD five lakh fine on the national body after six lifters flunked dope tests conducted by WADA last year.
Barely days after paying the fine, Manchester Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sanamacha Chanu (53kg) brought back doping into the limelight in the country`s dirtiest sport by failing a NADA test for banned stimulant methylehexameamine in the samples taken last month during the selection trials here.
Chanu though was not in the Commonwealth Games squad as she finished third in the trials.
Chanu`s dope flunk brought back the memories of the dope shame India had to faced in the last two Commonwealth Games.
Satheesha Rai and Krishnan Madaswamy were stripped of their medals in 2002 Manchester Games for flunking dope tests.
Four years later, Shailaja Pujari and Prameelavalli Bodari flunked WADA tests just before the Melbourne Games while Tejinder Singh and Edwin Raju were caught for doping during the Games.
That led to Indian lifters` being banned for one year and missing the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
Chanu was the culprit in India`s first international ban -- for one year -- in 2004 when she and Pratima Kumari flunked dope tests at the Athens Olympics.
Despite the eleventh hour confirmation of participation and doping drama, Indian weightlifters are primed to win a bagful of medals. The lifters, the coaches and the federation are confident that they would win at least a dozen medals through 15 participants -- eight men and seven women.
India have not fielded lifters in men`s 94kg and 104kg categories and women`s 63kg and 69kg as none of the Indians are in the top five in the latest Commonwealth Games rankings.
Two lifters each have been named in men`s 56kg and women`s 48 kg.
Favourites to win gold medals are K Ravi Kumar (men`s 69 kg), Soniya Chanu (women`s 48kg) and Renubala Chanu, defending champion in women`s 58kg.
"Most of our lifters are among top three in Commonwealth rankings and we are expecting 12-14 medals we can`t say now how many gold, silver or bronze it would be," said Indian Weightlifting Federation President Birendra Prasad Baisya.
In women`s 48kg, India can win two medals with Soniya Chanu, who had a lift of 175kg (75+100) at the Senior Nationals in Udaipur in February, expected to bag the gold won four years ago in Melbourne by Kunjarani Devi. Compatriot Sandhya Rani, with 167kg (73+94), also has a chance to win a medal.
Melbourne Games gold medallist Renubala Chanu (58kg) is primed to be among a select few, including Kunjarani (in women`s 48kg), who have won the yellow metal in two consecutive Games.
She had won gold in Melbourne with a lift of 185kg and is the current leader among Commonwealth lifters with a lift of 199kg (90+109) which she recorded in February in Udaipur at the Senior Nationals.
For all the limelight she got after making a comeback following her two-year ban for doping, it will be a tough job for L Monika Devi, who won the 69kg silver in Melbourne, to win a medal this time.