Grazia|September 2021
The Olympic silver medallist hopes that her inspiring story will fuel the sport ing ambitions of a new generation of athletes

Away from the weightlifting stage, Saikhom Mirabai Chanu is shy, reserved, and cuts an unimposing figure. But once she’s in tights and steps on the mark assigned to her, Chanu becomes a different person – an aggressive, towering competitor.

The Manipur native, who recently captured the attention of the entire nation by winning silver in the women’s 49 kg weightlifting category at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, informs us that it was her mother’s sage advice that set her on the path to greatness.

“Ab nikal gayi hai apne raste pe, toh peeche mud ke mat dekhna (now that you have chosen your path, do not look back) is what my mother, Saikhom Ongbi Tombi Leima, told me when I decided to take up the sport at the age of 12. So, despite having to overcome innumerable obstacles and failures to get to this point, I’ve never looked back,” she says.

Regardless of the circumstances and conditions she had to power through, Chanu was determined to make a name for herself. “I’ve had very humble beginnings. I didn’t have access to proper food or even transport to take to me to the centre where I trained when I first started out. I would hitch a ride with the sand-carrying truck drivers daily to reach the training venue, which was around 25 kms from my home,” she says. And, the 26-year-old is not one to forget a favor. As India celebrated her triumph, Chanu made it a point to celebrate the people who were involved in her journey to the podium. To express her gratitude, Chanu hosted an event for the truck drivers and their helpers and honored them for their investment in her life.

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