Cosmo: Tell us a little about your childhood. When did you realise that you wanted to pursue weightlifting?
Mirabai Chanu: “I grew up in Nongpok Kakching, a small village about 30 kilometres from Imphal [Manipur]. I come from a very humble background. I am the youngest of three siblings, and my childhood was full of ups and downs. As a child, I admired Kunjarani Devi—watching her weightlift so effortlessly inspired me to be like her. I realised my potential for the sport at the age of 12. I could lift more logs of wood than my brother, and my family recognised my strength and supported my decision to pursue weightlifting as a profession.”
C: What were the biggest obstacles that you had to overcome in order to realise your dream of representing India?
MC: “When I started out, there were no weightlifting centres in my village. So I had to travel over 40 kilometres to get to the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Imphal. But my rebellious optimism helped me realise my dream ultimately.”
C: When it comes to weightlifting, what has changed since you started out?
MC: “In India, weightlifting has always been considered a malecentric sport, given the strength it demands. It has taken a lot of time and courage to change that perception. On the bright side, after the Tokyo Olympics, people’s outlook towards this sport has changed significantly. And in the recent years, many young girls have taken up weightlifting, which makes me extremely happy.”
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