India's weightlifting coach Vijay Sharma said that he is happy that North Korea won't be competing against them at the Tokyo Olympics but also made it clear that they are focussed on beating the Chinese at the showpiece event this year.
North Korea on Monday pulled out from the Summer Games due to the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.” Their withdrawal will give a major boost to India's No. 1 medal hope in weightlifting - Mirabai Chanu.
Former world champion Chanu currently occupies the fourth place in the women’s 49kg Tokyo Games qualifying rankings. Her nearest rival, Ri Song Gum of North Korea had pipped Chanu to take the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championship by lifting 204kg as against 201kg by the Indian.
Thus, Chanu stands to gain if North Korea sticks to its decision of withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics.
“We are happy to hear this news about North Korea withdrawing from the Olympics. But, honestly our focus was on competing with China,” national coach Vijay Sharma told PTI.
“At the end of the day, individual performance is most important and we will give our best in the Asian Championship next week,” he added.
The latest qualifying rankings feature three Chinese weightlifters in the top five. However, only one of the three Chinese lifters will be able to compete at the Olympics as a nation can send only one athlete per weight category, effectively making Chanu the second best lifter in her category.
Chanu had a disappointing outing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The diminutive Manipuri had failed to record a legal lift in any of her three attempts in clean & jerk and thus could not get an overall total in women’s 48kg.
The 26-year-old will next be seen at the Asian Weightlifting Championships to be held at Tashkent in Uzbekistan from April 16 to 25.